Happinez

POSITIVE, WISE & LOVING LIFE

If summer isn't your favorite season (because you don't like the heat)

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If your skin doesn’t take the heat very well, and you’re not really into imposed happiness (social events! Hanging around!), this just may not be your season. And that’s fine. This helps. 

Go into the woods

In cities, summer is even hotter than in the country, because bricks retain heat. In the woods, there’s much more shadow, and it’s quieter than at the beach. Trees offer cool and quiet. 

Create a water reservoir

You’re not the only one having a hard time: during a dry, hot summer, the garden wastes away. And once the desired rain finally falls, most of the water is drained via the sewer – such a shame. Make sure the water isn’t wasted and create a water reservoir. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just saw through the drainpipe, so the water can find its way through your garden. Even better: create a green roof, that doesn’t just retain water, but also cools off your home during the summer. That’s feng shui: with water around you, it’s easier to handle the sun. 

Don’t forget about the fun sides 

There’s an upside to summer, too. Think of a thunderstorm, when all the built-up tension discharges and rain just keeps on falling from the sky. When the plants shake their leaves with sheer joy over the thick drops of water, and the clouds are so dark that blackbirds start singing because they think night is falling. When you smell the lovely scent of rain falling on dry grounds, named petrichor(ancient Greek for ‘the blood of the Gods’). 

Imitate migratory birds

If you can, travel to a place where the climate suits you better. Spend your summer vacation on an island in the middle of the sea, where the temperature is lower.

And don’t forget… it’s just one season 

Perhaps the most important thing is: don’t let anyone tell you anything about summer. You don’t have to like it. Some people love summer parties and crowded terraces, others prefer to read a book in the shadow under a tree. Some people flourish in the sun, others do better when there’s fog or rain. However, here’s a comforting thought: summer is just one of the four seasons, and this too shall pass. Before you know it it’s September and you’re riding your bike in the drizzling rain. 

Text: Anne Wesseling – Photo: Jeremy Bishop

'It takes one to know one' - why there's so much truth in that expression

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Even young children know the phrase: it takes one to know one. Sigmund Freud is the famous thinker behind this logic. He called it projection: when we ‘project’ your unpleasant character traits or feelings on someone else. 

‘I can’t believe how annoyingly confident she is. She really thinks she’s something special, doesn’t she?’ Thoughts like these – they’re not pretty, but let’s be honest: we all have them sometimes. Especially regarding people we’re around a lot, such as family members, friends and significant others. 

Projection

According to psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and generations of psychoanalysts and other therapists after him, thoughts like these are about projection. We label someone else with an unpleasant feeling (jealousy, anger, fear) or character trait that actually says a lot about ourselves. We do so because it’s a trait we have ourselves (you’re quite confident yourself, too) or because you’d want to be more like this person (you’re insecure).  

Jealousy

Projection isn’t always obvious. An example: you’re convinced your partner is cheating on you. Nothing happened, there’s no reason to suspect anything. It’s your jealousy making you suspicious. Instead of examining the jealousy, you project the unpleasant feeling on them. 

Self protection

‘It takes one to know one’ is applicable in lots of situations. The things we blame others for, contain valuable information about ourselves. That’s because projection is a means of self protection. We point the pain, fear and insecurity we don’t want to feel at another person. That’s how we keep ourselves from dealing with pain, and blame or label others. 

Valuable lessons

So what use is it to know all this? Well, the more we know about projection, the more we can learn about who we are. Think about the qualities that annoy you in your partner, or in the people you work with. If you take an honest look at yourself, do you think you have some of those qualities in common with them? Or perhaps, do you blame them for it because of some fear or insecurity you have? Every time you project something onto someone else is a chance to learn about yourself. It’s not easy, but it’s worth trying: it makes it easier to know what you need and helps you to communicate with others. 

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photo: Vince Fleming

 

A letter to all the troublesome, lazy and lovable adolescents

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You’re trying so hard to understand the world. Trying to see through it, in order to feel safe and determine your position. You’re in such a hurry to get all your questions answered.

You want to do everything so well. You’re exploring, looking for right and wrong, for beautiful and ugly, for how it’s supposed to be and how it’s not. ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ are not the absolute concepts the people who talk about them want you to believe. And how it’s supposed to be, dear, that’s even more of an invention. More important than finding good and evil is the boundary between true and untrue. If you feel something is true, you’ll experience a small shock. You may not know the One Truth, but at least you’ve come closer to your own truth.

Loving the truth also means being critical, letting go of what you think you know, acknowledging your own part in things, debunking illusions, seeing things for what they are and not what they’re made to be. It also means being willing to adjust your truths when you need to, and being open to other possibilities.

Dare to have doubts

Dare to have doubts, is something I would keep whispering in your ear the next few years. The ability to be unsure may be your most important instrument. Have the guts to not know. Dare to wait before you judge. Dare to change your opinion. Being certain and sure is regarded as strong and reliable in this world, having doubts is supposed to be for the faint hearted and the fidgety. That’s while doubt is the starting point of all knowledge. If you don’t allow yourself to have doubts, you think you know the truth all too soon and judge based upon this truth, you’re putting on blindfolds.

The world of high school you’ve entered, holds so many chances for you to connect to your peers. You will make friends, some of them will remain with you your whole life. You will share experiences, have fun, fight and close alliances. Sometimes you’ll be on your own, other times you’ll feel like it’s the two of you against the world. Having a laughter attack, feeling butterflies in your stomach and feeble knees, you’ll be able to face new situations, simply because you’re together.

Be true to yourself

In all these commitments to friends, it’s important to be who you are and never renounce yourself, no matter how much you long for a connection and acceptation. Remember: being liked is only worth something if people like you for who you are, who you really are. It’s about empathizing with others, connecting to some of them with an open heart and still being true to yourself. Because there you find your lust for life, your creativity, your happiness and your freedom.

With love and respect for who you are,

Susan Smit

 Photo by Andrea Tummons

This is how nature helps you to recover

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Being outside makes your blood pressure decline, allows your body to recover from stress and eases your mind. But how much nature does one need, exactly, for that positive effect? Try the ‘nature pyramid’. 

Research shows that five hours in nature is enough to profit from nature’s positive effects. It might sound like quite a lot, but you don’t have to spend the time all at once. A practical tool is the ‘nature pyramid’. 

The pyramid consists of four layers that go from ‘little everyday moments’ to ‘really going outside’. Together, the layers make for an ideal maintenance dose. And it’s actually quite simple, because you can get your dose of nature in several ways.

 This is how the pyramid works:

 1 Your daily dose

 This is the first, broad layer, and it’s easy to score here. Just make sure you create a base by surrounding ourself with green and soaking up small portions of nature every day. The more often you go, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes, the better. 

 * pick a walking or biking route with trees, on the road to work or school 

* Put plants in your house and on your desk and allow your eyes some rest by looking at it for a couple of seconds every once in a while 

* Put pots with fresh herbs in the kitchen, and smell them as often as you can (instant energy boost!). 

* Play a recording of birds in the woods on YouTube while you’re at work

* Paint a wall green 

* Just walk into the garden (if you have one)

 Tip: the beneficial effect of green is bigger afterwards than it is beforehand. So taking a walk after work is even better than before work. 

 2 Your weekly dose: into the woods (for a few hours) 

 This is the second level in the pyramid. Think of it as your maintenance dose. It’s not complicated: just go outside once a week for a couple of hours. A day to the beach has a fantastic effect, just like an afternoon in the woods. Spending the day with the kids? Why not take them into the woods instead of to the indoor playground.

 Tip: the weather doesn’t need to be fantastic: if it’s raining softly, the woods smell extra nice! 

3 Every couple of months: a big dose (like a mini vacation)

The higher you get in the pyramid, the longer and most intense the experience. With level 1 and 2 you easily reach a couple of hours a week. Take some more time every couple of months, for instance by taking a mini vacation – not a citytrip, but a trip outside. Go camping for a night, or retreat to a log cabin. 

Tip: go to the same place every couple of months, so you’ll experience it in every season. 

4 Annually: a reset for body and mind 

The top of the pyramid is narrow, but it adds a lot of depth. You don’t need to do it more than once a year, but make sure you have the time: go outside for a few days (or longer) and be outside continuously. Five days is perfect, more is fine. Go for a hike in the mountains, follow the pilgrims’ path to Santiago or take a long walk in your own country, there are several options. 

Quick result with the nature pyramid

The most important thing is to start with something small. Just try it. Start with the lowest layer of the pyramid, with lots of small portions of nature that help you to recover from stress and complicated emotions. Then move on to step two. This is how you easily bring more nature in your life. After a difficult time in your life, you can add a retreat (like in Cheryl Strayed’s book Wild). 

But it starts with small moments. After a busy day, when everyone’s tired and the house seems too small. It’s comforting to know you can find instant relief in something that’s always at an arms reach: a pot of fresh herbs. Basil, or thyme, or rosemary. 

Breathe in, breathe out.

‘What are you doing, mom?’ 

‘Here, darling. Just smell it!’ 

Text: Anne Wesseling - Photo: Patrick Hendry

Abandoned by your partner? What it teaches you about love

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A while ago, by coincidence I was in the same room with an ex partner. As we sat next to each other, I recognized the feeling. Everything we said was fine, but below the surface I felt a deep defense from him to me. In the last phase of the relationship I had gotten used to it, but now, it struck me like an unpleasant smell you want to walk away from. 

It was such a contrast with the things I experience in my present relationship: veiled rejection versus connection. The closed door with the blocked-up mailbox opposed to an elegant gate made out of lights, and a doormat that says ‘Welcome’. It gave me a cheerful insight: the best thing about being dumped is that you never (or hardly ever) have to sit next to someone who doesn’t want to be with you. 

When someone ends a serious relationship, they have been in a process for a while. It can take weeks, months or years, but step by step, they move away from you. As their partner, you notice every inch of the separation. Every indifferent hello, every dutiful ‘I love you too’. Every wandering eye, every routine kiss, every lukewarm goodbye, every disapproving sigh, every soulless session of lovemaking. Everything.  

What being abandoned teaches you 

How is it possible that I underwent this covered rejection as something acceptable for so long? Because it was too painful, to unsafe to accept, and I wanted so badly to believe that everything was OK. Because I thought I could regain his love by scoring points. Because I thought my love was big enough for the both of us. And secretly (because my self-love isn’t the problem) because I thought: I’m lovable, so you’ve got to love me. Now I know: I don’t decide about other people’s love. 

 If someone closes the door to their heart for you, you can’t open it. The door only opens from the inside. You can keep dribbling in front of the door with your package of love, but it remains closed. If someone seriously considers leaving you, it’s probably too late. The path outside is only open to who’s outside already. This can be comforting later on: there is nothing you could have done to change things. 

 You don’t have to bang on their door anymore

 For the hardcore people among us, who have hope even after they’ve got dumped: it’s unlikely that someone opens the door again after ending a relationship. After all, it’s not in their interest to do so. In order to see the decision of going as a good and necessary thing, they need to avoid true connection or loyalty – even if there are children involved. 

 Once I’m alone again, at home, I sigh. It’s not a sad sigh, but a relieved one. I don’t have to bang that door anymore. And it’s cost me a couple of years, but finally I’m able to say: I don’t even feel like it anymore, not the slightest bit.  

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Joe Gardner

Why it's important to be open about your feelings as a parent

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Mommy’s doing fine, she’s just a little tired. Look, she’s smiling, right? And daddy is always strong, he never cries. Most parents put a lot of effort in hiding their own pain and sadness from the children. They don’t show their emotions, because they don’t want to burden their offspring with grown-up trouble. But how wise is that? 

There was a time when my kids were aged 1 and 4 years old and I was processing grief over a broken family. The tricks I had always used to hide my feelings from them at difficult times, didn’t work anymore. I just couldn’t glue the fake smile onto my face, couldn’t manage to make phony jokes, couldn’t produce the high-pitched voice (the higher, the more tired I used to be). There was just too much pain. I couldn’t help but show how I was feeling. 

‘Don’t cry, mommy’ 

I just expressed my sadness, constantly telling my children that it wasn’t their fault, that I was strong enough to get through it, and that it would pass. Sometimes I cried, often without noticing it. My sons full sentence, without even turning towards me from the child’s seat, was: ‘Don’t cry, mommy’. It wasn’t until I touched my cheeks that I noticed they were wet. 

After a few weeks, I managed to save my tears until they had gone to sleep. After a couple of months, they saw me laugh every now and then. And after a year, I had regained calmth, strength and the pounds I had lost, and I was able to genuinely enjoy things again. My daughter seemed to follow the process of grief and recovery with curiosity. She had seen her mother tumble and fall, saw her hurt and then pick herself up again. So that’s how it’s done.

Show them how you’re bearing pain

As parents, we’d love to prevent our children from all the suffering. ‘I would take it from you if I could,’ I heard myself tell my daughter a while ago, about her eczema. I meant it, but at the same time I know it’s not my job. Instead of taking away her pain, I better show her how to bear it herself. 

By the way, one might wonder whether it’s possible to fool children. You may think you’re successfully hiding your feelings, but children sense so much more than we know. Little pitchers have big ears. And if your grief is off-topic, because you hide it or deny it, they’ll start drawing their own conclusions, based on their fears. Or they take it personally, the way children do (‘Mommy is sad because I was cheeky the other day’). 

Resilience and self-love

It’s not OK to burden your children with everything you go through as an adult, because that way you create an unsafe environment. But if you structurally hide your painful emotions, you implicitly tell your kids pain and grief are shameful and weak. You have to be happy, or at least act like you are, or there’s something wrong with you. Psychologist Dirk de Wachter says: ‘The art of living is learning how to be unhappy,’ and I agree with him. Somewhere along the road, life will knock your children down. By showing them that it’s possible to create a space for pain and disappointment, you teach them that emotions are not the end. You give them two valuable presents: resilience and self-love.

Text: Susan Smit – Photo:  Bruno Nascimento

Sunny weather? Why that might be a challenge if you're highly sensitive

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It’s June, and that means: sunny weather. For highly sensitive persons, the sun can be extra intense. How does that work? HSP-expert Femke de Grijs explains. 

For many people, being highly sensitive is combined with perfectionism, empathy and overstimulation. Highly sensitive people experience the world – with all its stimuli and triggers – more intensely than others. This has its upsides: as a HSP, you probably feel more connected to nature, easily pick up how other people feel, you’re genuinely responsible and strive for harmony. 

But living an intense and highly sensitive life has a downside, too, especially if you don’t know how to handle it yet. Your sensitivity makes you vulnerable, you tend to get off balance and when you’re overstimulated, you sometimes get angry, scared or sad. 

The stimuli don’t just come from other people’s actions, but also from natural circumstances. Like the weather. If there’s a heat wave, for HSP’s this is extra intense. 

Boundaries and drinking water

Femke de Grijs, HSP expert, explains. ‘People who are highly sensitive are able to enjoy heat more intensely, but they can also experience the downside of it more intensely – think skin problems, headaches, nausea, lack of concentration. Of course, it’s different for everybody.’ 

When a highly sensitive person experiences physical, emotional and / or mental problems, they might have been in the sun or in the heat for too long. That’s why boundaries are very important for them. 

But, as Femke says: ‘Some highly sensitive people find it difficult to set these boundaries. They feel guilty when they say they want to stay in and other people are disappointed.’ 

True to yourself 

‘In that case, it’s very important for a HSP to control their sensitivity and stay true to themselves and their own energy,’ Femke advises. ‘That’s how they can be clear about their boundaries, and don’t make other people’s feelings personal.’

A good way to be true to yourself as a HSP, is by honestly telling people how you’re feeling and what you wish for. ‘For instance, say: “I have a hard time handling the heat and I want to go to the supermarket tonight, when it’s cooler outside.”’

Besides, highly sensitive persons tend not to drink enough water. During hot days, be sure to drink two liters of water (not too cold) in order to hydrate your body. Because, according to Femke, the most important thing is: ‘Take good care of yourself. There’s no such thing as the ultimate trick, every HSP is unique. But taking good care of yourself should always be your first priority.’  

Text: Eline Hoffman - Photo: Mel Elías

Rational thinker? Why your subconscious is interesting, too

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Expressing why we do and don’t do things in terms of feelings, becomes more and more common. You don’t apply for a job because it doesn’t feel right, or you make an offer for a house because it does. Feelings have always been important, but we haven’t always talked about them this easily.

It’s a good thing that we do now, because it brings us closer to ourselves. Interestingly, according to psychiatrist and philosopher Carl Gustav Jung, our talking about feelings shows we’re more tuned into our unconscious than to our conscious. Remarkable, in a society where awareness and the conscious are so relevant. Discover how Jung distinguishes the subconscious from the conscious. 

Conscious: being and experiencing 

Increasing our consciousness, that’s something we’ve been doing since the Enlightenment. Knowledge is power and religion isn’t necessary, because all we need is in ourselves. The moment you’re born, you’re aware of the world around you. You grow up in a certain culture, learn the language and habits, acquire knowledge with your experiences and expand this knowledge endlessly. Consciousless is life on earth: relatively clear and tangible. 

Subconscious: intuitive insight

The things you experience, but can’t explain: that’s your subconscious. Dreams, intuition, tarot sessions that offer a fitting answer to a life question, talking to a stranger inspiring you, a near-death experience that changes your outlook on life: all expressions of the subconscious. We all get inspired sometimes, and that’s when your subconscious asks you to act on it. Integrate the unconscious into the consciousness. If something doesn’t feel right, try to express as clearly as you can why it doesn’t. That’s valuable to both yourself and others. 

Subconscious: the inexplicable 

Jung compares the subconscious to the ocean that exists under the island (above sealevel: the conscious, under sealevel: the subconscious). It’s unrelated to the tangible. Think: the influence of your ancestors, past lives, different dimensions, energies, the source. Whatever you call it, the subconscious represents everything we don’t sea, but has an effect on us. If you need to experience something in a tangible way, the subconscious will tell you. 

 Want to know more about Jung and the subconscious? 

 * Psychology of the Unconscious, Carl Gustav Jung
* Jung’s Map of the Soul, Murray Stein

Text: Fabienne Peters - Photo: Candice Picard

 

Soulful sexuality: why the power of sexuality is all about involving your heart

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Some people see sex as an obligation, while others treat it like a wild adventure. What lies between these two extremes? In the new issue of Happinez Magazine, Susan Smit explores the idea of sacred sexuality. 

Let’s talk about sex. For some people it’s their favorite subject, for others it’s a taboo or something to joke about. This is revealing, because sexuality is often either overrated or underrated. Sex is either a duty or a lifestyle. After many centuries of selfcontrol and demureness, with sex portrayed as suspect, dangerous and sinful, we’re now seeing the opposite: soulless sex depicted in the media, in advertising, in movies and in real life.

Deeper meaning

It seems as if people in love relationships as well as outside of them either go for the excitement of extremes or settle for a practiced exercise. There are people who try to block sex through rules or strict morals; and there are people who focus entirely on their sexuality, and indulge every sensory pleasure. Where is the deeper meaning? Where is the grace? Where is the middle ground? 

Involve your heart

The middle ground is the heart. The fathomless power of sexuality reveals itself when you find the courage to involve your heart. When sex is no more than an exercise, a compulsive embrace only intended to release tension, it may give temporary satisfaction, but it will never be uplifting. The true power of sexuality remains hidden that way. But when we show ourselves and surrender ourselves with more than just our bodies, sex becomes one of the most important ways for the soul to speak to us.

 Want to read more? In Happinez 16 – Find your sparkle, you can read the whole article ‘Soulful Sexuality’. You can buy it here.

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Christiana Rivers

If your heart got broken - four things that will make you feel better

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If your heart is broken, all you probably want to do is stay in – hidden under a blanket, playing Sinead O’Connor’s ‘Nothing compares 2 u’ over and over again. There are things that will help you more, though. 

Heartbreak is one of the worst things in the world, and unfortunately there’s no magical pill that can solve it. There are no quick fixes, no standard protocols you can follow to make the nagging feeling disappear. If you could, you would stay under a blanket for the next couple of years. It seems impossible that you will ever be happy again (on your own or with another partner). 

The most painful thing about this is missing someone who used to play such an important part in your life. It seems like there’s a hole where they once were. A hole that can’t be filled easily, a hole that makes you feel cold. What to do now, how to handle the feeling? Here’s a few options.  

Welcome the feeling

One of the most important, yet most difficult things in times of heartbreak is simply acknowledging and accepting your feelings. Don’t push loneliness or sadness away, but feel them (and express yourself). Call someone you trust to talk about it, yell or scream. Everything beats running away from it and drinking, eating or smoking too much. 

Pick up your life, but don’t overdo it

No matter how much you want to stay in, don’t. It’s unlikely to make you feel better. Just go to work and meet friends, but don’t push yourself into biting off more than you can chew. Distraction is fine, but too much of it means walking away from your feelings. 

Do things that require a mental or physical effort

Scrolling through Instagram endlessly or hanging on the couch isn’t the best thing you can do right now. Pick activities that require a mental or physical effort. It doesn’t matter what – from reading books to making a puzzle to exercising to taking a yoga class or going for a walk. Whatever you pick, make sure it’s an activity you actually enjoy. It makes it easier to turn off the ‘I miss them’ thoughts, because your brain needs the focus for other things. At the same time, it’s a reminder that you can enjoy things without them. 

Challenge yourself by learning to do new things 

Is there something you’ve been wanting to do for months, but didn’t have the guts to do? This is the time to take action. Don’t have a plan? It’s still a good idea to take up something new. Buy new clothes or paint a wall in your home. Introducing new things in your life will bring renewed energy. It will make you see that life is still worthwhile. 

 Text: Joanne Wienen - Photo: Brooke Cagle

Put on your shoes and go: why running gives a mental boost

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Does the sunny spring weather get you in the mood for running? Go for it! Your mind will thank you for it: running gives a mental boost. 

We can’t repeat it often enough: exercise and sports is just as good for your mind as it is for your body. This goes for running too. Whether you go for a quick round, run for an hour or pick an interval training: running benefits your mental health. 

Journalist and runner Scott Douglas found out himself. In his book Running Is My Therapy, he tells all about the positive impact running has on a life filled with fear, gloomy thoughts and psychological problems. According to Douglas, there are a few rules to think of when you use running to give yourself a mental booth. They’re quite simple. 

It’s not all or nothing

You can give yourself quite a hard time if you decide you can’t feel satisfied before you’ve walked at least three miles. But think about it: isn’t fifteen minutes running more beneficial than fifteen minutes of hanging on the couch? 

Douglas’ point is: don’t let minutes, speed, miles or your heartrate distract you and just go. The first step is the most important one, the rest will follow. Tip: pick a flexible route that allows you to change plans half way. That’s how you prevent yourself from putting too much pressure on it. You can decide how far you want to go based on how you feel during the walk. Same goes for your speed. 

Go outside 

A treadmill may seem convenient, but running outside makes you feel so much better. Choose places where there is little traffic and where nature treats you on beautiful views. Running outside isn’t for everybody, but even if you live in the city central, there are possibilities. 

Decide when to go 

Having a fixed rhythm is an important step if you’re not feeling great. For many people, taking a walk in the morning works well. It doesn’t just give your day a fresh start, but it also boosts productivity. Running at night, to let go of built up tension, can also be very pleasant. You decide what works for you.  

However, it’s wise to pick a fixed moment. That way, you’ll know when to put on your running shoes. 

Together or by yourself? Whatever you feel like 

Some people have a running buddy who motivates them to get off the couch (and the other way around). It can be very successful, especially if you guys have a similar speed and level of energy. However, sometimes it’s a good idea to go out on your own, for instance if you don’t want to decide how far you want to go before you leave. After a busy day, it can be great to find the peace and calm you need – on your own. 

So let your running session depend on what you feel like and what you need. No matter how quick, slow, long, short, early or late you run: you are running, that’s what counts. 

Text: Eline Hoffman - Photo: Bruno Nascimento

 

 

We grow by losing - and other wise lessons of the Dalai Lama

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The Dalai Lama, spiritual leader to the Tibetans, spreads Buddhist values all over the world. Discover the first nine of his eighteen rules. 

1 Love and success come with risk

The first of the Dalai Lama’s rules is a warning. It doesn’t mean you should avoid love and success, but it encourages you to be realistic about it. Don’t romanticize what you don’t have, but make sure you’re ready when it crosses your path. It will probably bring sorrow, too (like loss, or the fear of loss). 

2 If you lose, don’t lose the lesson 

Losing is more important to personal growth than winning, no matter what it’s about. Don’t let your head down when you lose, and try to discover what the experience may bring: skills, for instance, or knowledge about how you react to the fact that you’ve lost. Do you blame yourself for losing? Why is that? Ask yourself questions and gain knowledge about who you are. 

3 Live with respect to yourself and others and take responsibility for your actions 

This rule may seem obvious, but it isn’t. Think about it: do you really respect yourself? Do you respect how you look, your thoughts, emotions, actions, the way you live your life? As long as you don’t fully respect yourself, you can’t really respect others, nor can you take responsibility for your actions. No matter how hard you try. In others, you see a blow-up of the things about you that you’re not embracing. 

4 Not getting what you want is a powerful life lesson 

You put your mind to something: enrolling in an education, getting a new job, getting pregnant, a new home. And then it doesn’t happen. It hurts, because your desire for this new step has become a part of your life. You’ve made room for it in your mind and your heart, and the fact you’re not getting what you want, means you need to mourn. It’s about letting go something you don’t want to let go. That’s when you know more than ever whether this is really what you want, and why you want it so badly. The more reason to work even harder for it – or not? 

5 Know the rules and bend them

Going against the rules is easy. Breaking them in a careful way is something else. The Dalai Lama doesn’t mean you should do things secretly. He means: rules are there for a reason, so if you break them, do it carefully, take responsibility and don’t cause others damage. 

6 Don’t let small things damage an important friendship 

Having a fight with your best friend? You know each other through and through, go through changes together, but you don’t always follow each other. You’re a mirror to them and they’re a mirror to you. That’s not always pleasant. Think about why you’re feeling hurt or why you don’t understand, and consider how much this connection is worth to you. Don’t be too proud to take the first step to an open, respectful conversation. 

7 Once you realize you’ve made a mistake, make it right

Making mistakes is important, just like losing. It brings so many lessons, at least, if you realize you’re making a mistake and allow yourself to admit it and make it right. Sometimes you realize yourself, sometimes others tell you. Don’t be afraid to admit you were wrong – it’s the most powerful and sincere thing you can do. 

8 Spend time alone daily

Reading, going for a walk, meditating, making music, shopping, being in the sun, visiting a museum or the market: enjoy your time alone. Being busy all the time is not a status symbol. What’s interesting about you is not your agenda or your network, it’s who you are. Being on your own can be both wonderful and painful. On the one hand you experience peace and quiet, on the other hand your inner critic takes its chance to scold you. However, you’ll find that the more time you consciously spend alone, the kinder the critic becomes.

9 Embrace change, but remember your values 

This is a very essential rule, especially in a time when everything is possible and every day may change your life. We all have our own philosophies and opinions, and we can share them whenever we want. Be open to new insight, be curious, but be true to yourself. 

Text: Fabienne Peters - Photo Nichole Tumbaga

Painful emotions: this is how you welcome them (because it will make them leave much sooner)

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We all have our ways of muffling painful emotions. Some of us try to find distraction (in company, endlessly watching tv shows, comfort food), others use positive thinking to turn pain into something beautiful, or simply deny them. Do you tend to avoid emotional pain? Then Susan Smit wants to tell you something. 

Long ago, we created a toolbox that could help us overcome anything that could happen to us. If we want to, we can keep using the tools for the rest of our lives. That costs a lot of energy, though, and we won’t pick up on what the emotions want to tell us. Besides, we store them somewhere in our body anyway – they don’t disappear. We survive, but we don’t solve anything. 

Humility

I suggest something else. I suggest to simply feel, experience emotions. To undergo them and allow them to find their way through you. There’s a beautiful word for it: humility. 

Emotions are visitors

If you move towards difficult emotions and stop fighting them as if they’re enemies, you’ll find that you can take them. It’s not necessarily pleasant, you’d rather hang in a bar having a laugh, but you’ll find that it’s possible to keep breathing. You’ll also find that even the most intense emotions will leave you again, sooner or later. They are visitors, they’re not coming to stay. And you know they’ll leave more quickly if you welcome them generously and bravely and say goodbye with relief. You are big and strong enough to accept them as part of you, and as part of life, without fearing they will crush you. 

Part of life

This will be so useful to you. Because in your life, you will experience so many heavy emotional reactions to things, especially after a short night’s sleep, when you’re having a bad day or simply a terrible mood. Even when you’re 84. These emotions will keep coming and the causes for the emotions, too. It doesn’t make you a bad, weak or less spiritual person. It’s part of being alive. 

If you’re having a painful emotion, this is what you can do: 

* Feel how the emotion takes you by surprise. That’s all. Experience how your body responds to it (knot in your belly, pressure on the heart, clasping around the neck). 
* Don’t act, don’t express it, don’t put it away.
* Don’t attach any value to your thoughts, and don’t pay attention to what you’re thinking about the emotion, or about what causes it.
* Allow the emotion to be there and co-exist with it.
* Breathe through it. Follow your breathing and make it deep and calm.
* Observe what happens. Is the emotion getting more powerful, or less powerful? Do you feel calmer now?
* If you want to, express yourself or act, from this quiet place. 

How it works

This is how it works: something evokes an emotion inside you. Your body responds to it (and to the thoughts that come along with it) and does what it needs to do: it gets in a flight-, fight- or freeze mode. By deepening your breathing and slowing down, you give a signal to your body: it’s okay. There’s nothing life threatening about this. A deep belly breath is part of a relaxed situation. As a result, the physical reaction to your emotion will decrease. Then the emotion itself will decrease, in a natural way. Emotions want to move through you, come and go, they don’t want to stick with you. 

 Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Amy Treasure

Brittle or rough nails? This is what they tell you about your health

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Shiny hair and glowing skin are not just beautiful features, they also tell us something about how we’re feeling inside. The same goes for nails. 

Would you like your nails to be a little stronger, more shiny or more pink? If they don’t look as beautiful as they have before, this may say something about your health. For instance, pay attention to: 

1 The texture 

Healthy nails have a strong, smooth surface. Do you notice strange little dents in your nails? They may be linked to psoriasis, a chronical skin condition that comes with itchiness. For some people who suffer from this condition, the first sign is a change in the nails. 

Deep, horizontal ridges or grooves in the nails are sometimes called ‘lines of Beau’. They are caused by a little wound or other damage on your cuticles. Usually, the ridges disappear naturally. But horizontal ridges may also have an underlying physical cause such as syphilis, a metabolic disease or diabetes. And some people get ridges after chemo or the use of certain medication. 

Vertical ridges are nothing to worry about. Your nails are mostly made out of keratine. This is a protein that hair and skin are also made of. As we get older, most of us have dryer skin that feels less soft and our hair gets dryer. This is simply because of a decrease of keratine. In the nails, this decrease shows in innocent vertical ridges. 

2 The colour 

If you suddenly notice blue or black discoloration in your nails, it’s best to head to the doctor. Possibly, there’s nothing wrong – you may have hurt yourself without noticing – but the discoloration *may* be caused by a melanoma. It’s always wise to see the doctor, just to be certain. 

Yellow nails usually occur because of the products you use, such as nailpolish or remover. Always allow your nails to ‘breathe’ in between manicures and nourish them extra well, for instance with some tea tree oil or vitamin E oil.  If you don’t use any products, yellow nails may be caused by a yeast infection. 

White spots on your nails? They are usually nothing to worry about. They appear after bumping your nails into something, and disappear automatically. If you always have white spots on your nails, without knowing where they came from, it might be a good idea to see a doctor. It could be a signal of a lack of vitamin, calcium or zinc. 

3 Strength 

If your nails break or flake easily, this may be due to anemia or problems with the thyroid gland. Splitting nails may be a sign of a lack of hypoferremia. 

Soft, thin and bendable nails can usually be strengthened by giving your nails some rest and not using nailpolish for a while and using products that help to restore your nails. 

Text: Sanne Eva Dijkstra - Photo: Daiga Ellaby

 

Being vulnerable takes guts - do you have the courage?

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Thanks to author and vulnerability ambassador Brené Brown, we know vulnerability can enrich our lives. But what does it really mean to be vulnerable? 

In the last couple of years, a lot of attention has been drawn to the concept vulnerability. The word used to be linked to weakness and shame, but Brené Brown changed all that. According to her, vulnerability wasn’t something that should be avoided. On the contrary: it was something to aim for. Vulnerability, Brown said, can enrich your life. 

No more shame 

The radical notion that it’s okay – or even desirable – to be vulnerable, was hopeful for many people. For too long, we had been listening to our inner critic telling us we should be ashamed after being vulnerable. That’s while shame is the biggest obstacle when it comes to connecting to people. It stops us from telling things, sometimes even from feeling things.

 What is vulnerability? 

 Brown’s message was clear: no more shame, let’s make room for vulnerability. But what is vulnerability? Many people think they’re vulnerable, but they’re not. Telling people all about your problems may seem vulnerable, but it can be a distraction from what it’s really about. It’s talking about vulnerable, instead of actually being vulnerable. Telling someone about the sadness you felt when you’re already feeling better, seems vulnerable, but true vulnerability means reaching out to someone while you’re actually still feeling it. And that’s not easy. 

Hard work 

Vulnerability isn’t easy. It’s simple to hear Brown’s message and accept it, without really walking the talk. Theoretically, you totally agree with her, but it’s hard to actually practice it. Especially if you’ve taught yourself not to be vulnerable for years. Vulnerability is hard work. It means pushing yourself to reach out every day. To choose to show both your beautiful and your ugly features. To accept being imperfect and making mistakes.  

Dare to take risks 

Vulnerability also means taking risks. It’s saying ‘I love you’ without knowing what the answer will be. It’s apologizing without knowing whether the other person will accept it, it’s admitting you’ve made a big mistake at work, even if you have no idea how your boss may respond. 

Four ways of being more vulnerable 

 * Don’t judge. Accept yourself the way you are. Speak in friendly, positive terms about and to yourself. 

* Allow all emotions to exist. Oppressing shame, fear or anger makes it difficult to open up to love and happiness, too. 

* Failure is an option. No person ever lived without making mistakes. Imperfection is beautiful. 

* Be daring. Dare to open up to others, to love, to take risks. Even (or especially) if there are no certainties. 

 Text: Joanne Wienen - Photo: Natalia Figueredo



 

 

Going through a rough patch? Perhaps you're grieving - not over someone, but something

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When we think about grieving, we usually think about what we feel after we’ve lost a loved one. But there are many situations in life that may evoke feelings of grief. 

1 Loss of identity 

Losing an important ‘role’ in life means losing part of your identity. You’re mourning the loss of a part of yourself. In some cases, it may feel like your identity was stolen – for instance, when you lost a breast due to breast cancer and your body has changed, when your partner broke up with you and you’re no longer ‘X’s girlfriend or boyfriend’ or after getting fired. Feelings of grief get even stronger because it feels like you’re not in control. But the same feelings may arise when you chose to leave part of your identity behind – by choosing another career or deciding to quit your marriage. It may feel like you don’t have the ‘right’ to grieve, because the change was your own choice. 

2 Loss of safety 

Normally, we trust a certain amount of safety in our existence. We feel safe in our own home, in our own society and in our relationship. When suddenly you don’t feel safe anymore – physically, emotionally or mentally – for instance after a burglary or after abuse, your whole world may feel unsafe. It makes one very alert, even if there’s no danger anymore. In very serious cases, you may even suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSS). Losing sense of safety means learning how to handle trauma, and also mourning this lost sense of safety.  

3 Loss of autonomy 

Loss of autonomy happens, for instance, when illness or old age limits your abilities, or when financial problems make you dependent on other people’s help. Especially when it’s illness or old age, you feel the loss of autonomy in almost every part of your daily life. Things that were once self-evident, like going to the supermarket, getting a shower or getting dressed, are suddenly not so self-evident anymore. And if you’re having trouble making ends meet, you may feel like you’re failing and you may despair. You’re not just grieving because of your lack of autonomy; you also need to reshape your self-image.  

4 Loss of dreams or expectations 

If your desire to have children doesn’t result in becoming a parent, if you’ve studied hard for years but can’t find a job, or if your career isn’t what you expected of it, you need to change your expectations of the future. Life may turn out differently from what you hoped, and it’s not always fair. Grieving over the loss of dreams? A sense of failure may add to it, just like comparisons (continuously comparing yourself to others). 

You’re allowed to grieve 

When we think about mourning, we think about death. That’s why we feel like we’re only allowed to grieve when someone we love has passed away. However, we’re allowed to grieve the loss of other things, too: identity, safety, autonomy or dreams. Accept your feelings of anger, sadness and denial. And, just as importantly, allow other people to feel them, too. Grieving helps to get through a difficult part of life, no matter what we’re grieving about. 

 Text: Sanne Eva Dijkstra - Photo: Kinga Cichewicz

What if there's nothing wrong with you?

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Impulsive, messy, moody, a perfectionist, overly ambitious, lazy, naïve, distrustful… On a scale from 0 to 10: how easy do you find it to name all the things that are wrong with you? It probably takes you just a couple of minutes. 

Susan Henkels has been working as a psychotherapist for 45 years. Year after year, she heard people telling her about all the aspects of their personalities that really needed to be fixed. When one day she was listening to another patient summing up what was wrong with them, she suddenly thought: ‘There’s nothing wrong with her at all.’ Henkels realized how powerful it would be to let people ask themselves: ‘What if there’s nothing wrong with me at all?’

Now, she doesn’t mean we’re all perfect. Sure, most of us could improve their diet a little, or exercise a bit more. But Henkels’ mantra means we can finally stop worrying about all our shortcomings. Imagine how much better our lives would be if we didn’t constantly doubt and criticize ourselves. ‘We create a list of things that are wrong about us, and create an entire life around it,’ Henkels says. 

Nothing wrong with you 

The properties we see as ‘problematic’ or ‘wrong’, can be our strong suit, Henkels thinks. In her TED talk, she remembers the time she talked to a movie director. When Henkels told him she was working on a book titled What If There Is Nothing Wrong With You?, she said he could easily sum up eight things about him that needed improvement. 

Henkels asked him to name one, and the man said he suffered from ODD (oppositional defiant disorder). ‘What’s wrong with that?’ Henkels asked him. He answered: ‘I always opposed my parents and teachers.’ Henkels asked again: ‘What’s wrong with that?’ The director: ‘I didn’t stick to the rules in school, and didn’t do what I had to do at home.’ Again, Henkels asked the question. ‘I always had a bad temper, constantly fought my parents, didn’t have any friends and preferred to be alone,’ the man said. 

Problems or chances? 

Henkels kept repeating her question, until finally the director answered how he loved being on his own, because it allowed him to think up stories and filmscripts. ‘Thinking about it now, I think the ODD made me into the person I am today,’ he said. 

The next day, the man told Henkels he had had a good night sleep for the first time in years. He was free from self-doubt and worries about what he should or shouldn’t do. His next step? Examine the other 7 attributes he labeled ‘bad’. 

Acceptance

The question ‘What if there’s nothing wrong with you?’ is about developing acceptance. If you get better at accepting things, it may reduce stress and worries in (and about) your life. It’s not a magical question, asking yourself doesn’t instantly make your life perfect. However, it allows you shut up your inner critic – that nagging, judgmental voice that keeps blabbering all the time – and let go of all the things you judged about yourself. It helps to create a place of peace and quiet in your busy, chaotic life and thoughts. That’s a place where new promises and possibilities emerge. 

Text: Sanne Eva Dijkstra - Photo: Eye for Ebony

If someone you love is grieving: 7 ways to help them

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If someone you love is having a hard time, you want to help them. But how to do that? 

Being there for someone sounds easier than it is. If they’ve lost a loved one, if their heart is broken or if they have received other bad news, you might feel powerless. You want to help, but you don’t know how. Do they even want your sympathy? 

Supporting or comforting people who are suffering can be difficult. This short guidebook may help you. 

Get in touch 

When this person isn’t in your closest circle, you may not be sure whether to send a message – will they appreciate it? It’s usually better to get in touch, than to remain silent. It’s an easy thing to do and it might mean a lot to the other person. 

Don’t make it too complicated 

You don’t need to be an expert in the area of grief or broken hearts. If you don’t know what to say, just tell them: ‘I don’t know what to tell you, but I’m thinking of you.’ The most important thing is to make them feel seen and supported, it’s not about giving them the perfect answer or advice.  

Just listen 

If you’re talking to the sad person, make sure you’re really listening. You might feel a bit awkward and you might be searching for answers or solutions, for important insight. But usually, a sad person just wants to be heard. Allow them to tell their story, or just be together – that’s more supportive than unsolicited advice. 

Ask questions 

Maybe you don’t want to ask too many questions about their grief. Because you’re scared of what they’re going to say, or because you don’t want to remind them of a painful thing. However, they are probably perfectly able to tell you what they do and don’t want to talk about. Ask questions: it shows that you’re interested. Let them tell you what needs to be told. And respect them if they don’t want to answer. 

Bring them food 

When someone’s in a crisis, they probably don’t feel like eating. By bringing them a healthy home-made meal, you’re really helping and you show you care.  

Ask what they need 

Are there certain domestic chores that need to be done? People or organizations you can call for them? Or would they like you to get some groceries? Your practical help will be appreciated, especially if this person has a family (after all, children require time, care and attention). Because most people find it difficult to ask for help, it’s best to offer help in a specific, concrete way. Like: ‘I can pick up the kids from school tomorrow and take them to the playground, so you can have some time to yourself.’

Keep checking in

Life goes on, and it usually does before someone has processed the grief. Don’t forget about them; get in touch even after weeks and months. That’s how you show you haven’t forgotten about their grief, and they won’t feel alone.  

Text: Joanne Wienen - Photo: Priscilla Du Preez

7 signs that you're a highly empathetic person

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Do you feel intensely for people, animals and nature around you? Do you pick up other people’s emotions, does watching the news get to you sometimes? Then you’re probably a highly empathetic person. Cherish this ability!

As an empathetic person, you strongly feel for others. You experience other people’s emotions, mental state and physical pain as if they were your own. That’s why empathetic persons tend to be labeled ‘too emotional’ or even ‘weak’, while in fact, they’re very powerful. They know exactly what other people need and, unless they lose themselves, what their own boundaries are. Besides, they don’t just experience grief and anger on a deep level – they also experience happiness, enthusiasm and love strongly. 

Not sure whether you’re an empathetic person? Test yourself! 

1 You experience other people’s emotions as if they’re your own

 You’re able to feel what someone else is feeling – whether they’re family or complete strangers. If your brother’s having a job interview today, your body feels tense. If someone in the supermarket is frustrated, you may feel frustrated too, even if you haven’t even talked to them. 

 2 Emotions like anger and frustration drain you 

 Negative emotions exhaust you, even when they’re other people’s emotions. You need more time to recharge and get over them. 

 3 You can lose yourself in a relationship 

Failing to set boundaries, allowing your partner to drag you along and losing your sense of self: these are the dangers of relationships for empathetic people. By completely surrendering yourself to someone else, at some point, you don’t know which emotions are yours and which are your partner’s. 

 4 The news can really get to you 

 Tears when you’re watching a movie, a lump in your stomach while watching disturbing news or being touched by an impressive photograph. Even if all these things don’t affect your life, they have quite an impact on your mood. 

5 You feel before you understand 

Even though you don’t know where this uncanny feeling or gloomy state of mind come from, you just sense that something’s going on. It might be in your own life, or with someone you care about. Your sensitivity is quicker than your ratio, so before you know anything about a situation, your senses have picked it up. 

 6 You’re generous – sometimes at your own expense 

 People can count on you. They like to tell you their stories. You have a lot to give and strongly sympathize with others. That’s a beautiful quality, but it has a downside: sometimes, your care for others at the expense of care for yourself. Be sure to have an eye for your own needs. 

 7 You feel deeply connected to the world around you 

 The connection you feel to nature, people and animals is special. Sometimes it’s even a bit mystical. There are days when a flower in bloom, an old lady’s smile at the bakery or the sound of an enthusiastic donkey can genuinely touch you. Little things like these open your heart even further for all the beauty in the world. 

Text: Eline Hoffman - Photo: Barbora Polednová

Can anyone be like Gandhi? These are the lessons he taught his grandson

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As a twelve-year-old boy, Arun Gandhi lived in his famous grandfather’s ashram. What he learned there, changed his life. His lessons are valuable to everyone. 

He guided millions of people and made them improve their fate – or others’: the Indian spiritual leader and politician Mahatma Gandhi. With his strife for equality and world peace, he became a legend. After he died – Mahatma Gandhi survived several attacks, but was killed eventually – his family guarded his legacy, with grandson Arun as his primary representative. 

The grandson is 85 years old now, but he still works hard for the good cause. Arun travels around the world, giving lectures on how to handle anger and violence more constructively, and how to live together in peace and with compassion. 

Grandfather Gandhi’s life lessons   

In his book, Arun describes the loving, disarming and touching way in which his grandfather taught him. Mahatma Gandhi was patient, respectful, witty and decisive. Arun shares the 11 most important life lessons he learned from his grandfather. For instance, he learned how he could use his anger for a good cause, and why it’s important to be alone now and then. Mahatma also taught him about the five pillars of non-violence: respect, understanding, acceptation, appreciation and empathy.

If it was up to Arun, his grandfather’s lessons would have been published long ago, but no publisher was ever interested in the book. Until now. He laughs: ‘All of a sudden, seventeen publishers lined up.’ 

Is world peace possible?

‘Yes, world peace is possible, if we know what peace truly means. The biggest problem may be materialism. Every country aims at becoming a materialist society. Some already are one, and have reached great prosperity. The other countries want that, too. But materialism and morality are mutually exclusive.’ 

What do we need to change that? 

‘We need to be the change we want to see in the world. A peaceful world cannot be created or forced upon people top-down. In order to change, we need to make individual differences – we don’t need big organizations or institutions. I want to make people more aware of this. Right now, cultural violence affects every aspect of our lives. 

Our relationships and friendships have become violent, our religion is violent, entertainment and sports are mainly about violence. In this state of cultural violent, we can’t create peace. We have to conclude that the current level of prosperity is sufficient. We don’t need more, we need to invest in our families, friendships, relationships with others. In living a good life, with love and compassion. 

In his book, Arun Gandhi describes how his grandfather even forgives the man who planned an attack on him. Remembering his grandfather, this is Arun’s most important memory: how Bapuji was loving and understanding towards everyone. The notion of ‘family’ was limitless to him. He loved all people equally, regardless of whether they were rich or poor, or what their religion was. 

Which lesson of your grandfather is the most important one to you? 

‘The lesson that we should use anger in an intelligent and constructive way. You can’t learn that in a couple months’ time. It takes lifelong practice, because every day there are new situations that evoke anger. If you transform it into constructive action, it’s like fuel to a car. 

Anger is a useful power, but you need to know how to use it the right way. In order to find solutions and handle injustice – which isn’t about being right. Anger and compassion are opposites. You can’t be compassionate and angry at the same time. Compassion is rooted in love, while unrestrained anger can lead to passive or even physical violence.’

How can we learn to be compassionate, even in the most difficult situations? Can anyone become a ‘Gandhi’?

‘The most important way to develop compassion, is by realizing you have a role in society. Most people live for themselves, or maybe for their family. I often hear people say: I am who I am. They mean: everyone should accept me with all my weaknesses, I’m not going to do something about it. With an attitude like that, you’re not living – merely existing. 

When I lived in the ashram, my grandfather made me promise I would use every day to try and be a better person than I was the day before. It’s our job in society to improve ourselves, on a social, emotional, economical level and as a parent. We have to be balanced civilians. People are emotional beings, we react to everything in life with fear, anger, frustration, love, happiness, etcetera. We can allow life to blow us in all directions, like a weather vane, or we can take responsibility and learn how to reinforce the good reactions and control the negative ones. Simply because our behavior is not just important to ourselves, but to society as a whole.’ 

If you could talk to your grandfather now, what would you want to discuss? 

‘I would ask him how we can make rich people and nations see that, if we want to cure the world of its ailments, their attitudes and compassion are crucial. If we stop abusing each other and start to join forces, the world will be a much more peaceful place.’  

Mahatma Gandhi’s lessons 

The years in Mahatma Gandhi’s ashram changed Arun Gandhi’s life. Some of his insights: 

* Use your anger for the better.
* Anger motivates you to meet challenges and make changes.
* Don’t be afraid to speak up. 
* A convinced ‘no’ is better than saying yes to please others.
* Enjoy silence and being on your own. You need it to put experiences into perspective.
* Know your worth.
* Who you are and what you do, is worth just as much as what anyone else does.
* Lies are burdens.
* If you lie to others, you’re lying to yourself too, because you’re justifying your own behavior. 
* Waste is violence. It’s indifference towards the world and nature.
* Don’t chastice your children.
* Non-violent parenthood sets the right example for your children. 

Arun Gandhi, The Gift of Anger – And Other Lessons From My Grandfather Mahatma Gandhi.Penguin Books, 2017. 

Text: Vivian de Gier [edited] - Photo: Frank McKenna