What to do if it feels like love is out of reach for you

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There’s something strange about love outside our reach. Once you can’t touch it, it becomes very important, attractive and valuable. 

After years and years of brief affairs, of falling in love (nerve wrecking times), and being in serious relationships, something started to strike me. It’s something I wish I had known twenty years before. When love is out of reach, something strange happens: all of a sudden, it becomes very important, attractive and valuable. We want to have it, because we can’t have it. 


This inconvenient mechanism works this way in all forms and shapes of love. An unanswered love can become an obsession, because you tend to project every desirable, almost superhuman quality to the unwilling person. If you’re having a brief affair with someone who’s not completely available, this person will be like a jackpot you just can’t win, no matter how much money you spend on lottery tickets. And in a serious relationship, you’re screwed even more, because if your partner doesn’t give you love and dedication on a structural basis, after a while you probably won’t even admit it – simply because it’s so clever and so painful. 

Just one more step 

In a relationship where your partner doesn’t really commit, you feel like you’re not good enough – and at the same time, it seems possible to make them happy. Your partner’s appreciation and dedication are within reach, all you have to do is take one more stap, do your best a little bit more, and then you will succeed. Just dress a little bit better, say the right things at the right time, please them a little more in bed – and they will really love you. 

However, a person can dedicate their whole life to this, I tell you -unfortunately, from my own experience- without ever succeeding. 

Scoring points 

If you find yourself completely trying to prove your worth to someone, you have lost touch with your worth. If you’re unconsciously trying to score points in order to earn love, you will never win. It’s addictive, because every time you do score a point and find some proof of their love for you, you feel powerful and strong. You will work even harder to feel it again. That’s how this other person has a hold of you. 

People show who they are, what they have to offer and which place they give you in their lives, quite quickly. We tend to forget about that, because something has replaced this knowledge: our desires and needs. Fulfillment is so close it seems achievable, all they have to do is give it to you. But there’s a chance they were never actually able to give it. We have started to see it, because we wanted to see it. Because we darn deserve it. Because they have it in them, you’re certain. 

We’re the ones who have to remove the veil in front of our own eyes, in order to see that there’s nothing to find her – nothing, except an illusion that we’ve carefully built ourselves. 

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Sweet Ice Cream Photography

What's your spirit animal? It reminds you of your inner wisdom

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Have you found your spirit animal yet? This animal is on your side at a specific point in your life, and gives you the strength you need. The spider encourages you to weave your own web, the crocodile motivates you to be patient. 

All fifty spirit animals are divided into three categories in David Carson’s book How To Find Your Spirit Animal: inner qualities, inner wisdom and inner beauty. The five spirit animals of inner wisdom are: horse, coyote, seal, hare and octopus. 

Horse: retrieve your power 

Shamans and horses are originally a good match. The noble animals are honored for their power and their gracious appearance. The legends around them are numerous: the universe as a horse, horses hidden in pumpkins, shaman drums that turn into horses during rituals. Physical horse power has been a valuable thing for people for centuries, and the power is symbolically connected to the horse, too. Are you in need of some power, after a rough time or with a new adventure ahead of you? The horse as a spirit animal helps you to increase your inner power.  

Coyote: order instead of chaos

A survivor, that’s the coyote. It ambushes its prey all by itself, it chases a deer, survives at the North Pole or in Mexico – wherever it is, the coyote will find its way. The animal is flexible and smart, but also untrustworthy and hard to follow. It’s a valuable spirit animal if you’re in a chaotic situation, because it challenges you to find your path again. It may also appear when you do have everything in order. Ask yourself: is this structure enough for me? The coyote confronts and challenges. 

Seal: dare to change

The sea represents emotion, mystery, endlessness and connection. In initiation rituals, the symbolic meaning of water is our everchanging reality. Life isn’t right or left, black or white, it’s all of it. The seal, living under water for the most part, knows it. Do you find yourself having old habits, fixed thoughts or fear of change? The seal may be your spirit animal. It offers flexibility and suppleness because it moves along to the rhythm of the sea. 

Hare: be true to yourself 

Hares are prey animals with very sharp hearing. Like no other, they are able to distinguish between sounds and decide whether the coast is clear. They are masters when it comes to maneuvers, deceiving their pursuers. Hares are sensitive, ingenious animals. As a spirit animal, the hare helps you to stay true to your path. Do you find it difficult to keep your balance and be true to yourself? The hare will help you – just as the rabbit, by the way. 

Octopus: reduce stress 

The octopus has eight tentacles. This number represents balance and completion. The animal is smart, flexible and solitary. When it’s in danger, it makes itself invisible or starts a poison attack. The octopus is focused on solutions and reaching its goal. It motivates you to succeed at several points at the same time, to reduce stress, not to stand out too much and be skillful when it comes to handling difficult situations. With the octopus as a spirit animal, you go through inner growth that strengthens you deeply. 

Want to know more? 

Read all about spirit animals in David Carson’s book How To Find Your Spirit Animal. 

Text: Fabienne Peters - Photo: Jason Leung

If you want someone to fall in love with you, start living like this

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Imagine this. You’re out dancing, and on the dance floor you see two guys (or girls, whatever floats your boat). One of them dances like they just don’t care. They are feeling the music, and their body moves before they can think about it. With the other one, it’s different. It seems like they are calculating their moves, and wondering what it looks like. 

Then ask yourself: which one of the dancing people is most attractive to you. The one who’s dancing without thinking, or their friend? 

Most of us will probably pick the dancer who’s just moving intuitively, who’s feeling the flow. Why is it that we feel most attracted to a person who’s acting intuitively? And how can you be more like them? 

 1. Don't mind the others

Intuition is difficult to define, yet most people recognize it when they see it. People who are acting intuitively walk smoothly, don’t make awkward movements, they’re not limited in their communication. They don’t think about other people’s opinions. That’s what we find attractive: the spontaneity, the nonchalance and the lack of shame. 

Oftentimes, it’s the notion that other people are judging you or watching you, bothering you. How do you get over that feeling? By doing things that embarrass you and scare you. Start with a little thing. Go out wearing no make up, go to a spa if you fear being naked. Speech at a birthday, take salsa lessons, book yourself a ticket for a solo trip. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it takes you out of your comfort zone. You’ll see: it’ll feel liberating. 

2. Relax!

If you’re tense, it’s difficult to connect to your intuition. You tend to calculate things and focus on the world around you. So whatever you do, try to relax. Have a massage, go to your yoga class, meditate. The more you meditate, the more you’ll lose your tension. 

3. Do what makes you you 

It’s a strange phenomenon, but we can’t deny it: when people get married, they often stop doing the things they enjoy. Riding their bikes on a Sunday, playing the violin, building furniture, embroidery, climbing… The things you enjoy, the things you’re good at, are part of your sex appeal. They increase your chances of finding love. So don’t stop doing what you love, intuitively, because it’s what makes you you – and attractive.  

Text: Marijn Baar - Photo: Bảo-Quân Nguyễn

Indulge yourself: ten self care ideas that are easy to stick to

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Sure, treating yourself to a retreat in the Italian mountains or in Bali is the summum of self love, but it doesn’t have tob e nearly as luxurious (and costly). On the contrary: simple is very effective. Especially if you make it a habit to pay attention to yourself, at home, for free. 

1.     Go for a walk 

Walking outside in the fresh air every day, helps you to connect with nature and empty your mind. The exercise will improve your mood and give you energy, even if you only go outside for ten minutes. 

2.     Take a hot bath 

Bathing for half an hour has a miraculous effect on your wellbeing. There’s not much you can do while soaking – besides, perhaps, reading a book. And that’s why it’s so good. If you want to relax a little more, add some magnesium, Epsom salt or lavender oil tot he water. Don’t own a bath tub? A warm shower helps, too. 

3.     Treat yourself to a hot drink 

A warming cup of tea or matcha latte means a conscious short break. Have a seat, take a deep breath, slow down and enjoy. 

4.     Throw your legs in the air 

The Broken Candle yoga position improves the blood supply to your upper body and your head after a long day. This position relaxes and calms you down: it’s perfect if you’re stressed. Sit close tot he wall (with your face towards the wall), ‘walk’ up the wall with your feet and lie down on your back. Your body is shaped in a L-like shape now. Put your arms next to your body, with the palms of your hands turned upwards. Keep this position for at least five minutes, breathing slowly in and out. Do you tend to lie awake at night, going over all sorts of things? Then the Broken Candle can be a pleasant asana(position) before you go to sleep. 

5.     Call a friend 

Do you mostly stay in touch with your besties or family via WhatsApp? It’s a good idea to call them no wand then. Hearing the voice of someone you love can have quite a therapeutic effect. It makes the two of you happier: win-win situation!

6.     Keep a diary 

Writing down your thoughts, cares and experiences is the ultimate way to empty your mind. Writing helps you to gain insight and clarity and allows you to let go of feelings and problems. Don’t overthink it, just let your thoughts and feelings wander.

7.     Put your phone in ‘do not disturb’ mode 

Allow yourself to be in the present and enjoy the moment, without being distracted by the continuous stream of messages. They can wait!

8.     Organize your life 

Especially if you’re busy, it’s important to have a peaceful place to come home to. In an organized home, it’s much easier to relax. Regularly take fifteen minutes to clean out (part of) a room in your house: the countertop, the kitchen drawer filled with small things, your wardrobe, etcetera. 

9.     Put some music on 

Listening to good music makes you disappear into another world. Put on your favorite album and blow of some steam. Dancing is allowed! 

10.  Get up half an hour earlier (or go to bed half an hour earlier) 

It may not look like a lot, but 30 minutes can make a lot of difference. If you’re tired, just go to bed half an hour earlier than you’re used to. Your body and mind will thank you. Have a long day ahead of you? Get up half an hour earlier than you normally do. Don’t press snooze, but take this time to get started with a nice breakfast or a meditation. You’ll be surprised of the difference: a conscious morning ritual has a real effect on your productivity. 

 Text: Sanne Eva Dijkstra - Photo: Hanna Postova


Just moved into a new house and feeling homesick? This is how you handle it

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Moving means a lot more than just replacing your belongings from one place to another. It means new surroundings, new sounds, new neighbors, lots of boxes and leaving everything you knew. All these things can make you feel a bit lost and homesick.

Let’s start with something obvious: homesickness is nothing to be ashamed of. Leaving a place you loved – no matter for how long or how short – is difficult and getting used to a new thing takes time. And if you’re feeling homesick during a holiday, you know you’ll get back home again, but that’s different after moving. The new place is home, and after a while you’ll start longing for it when you’re away for a while. You will, it just takes time. 

But before you do – while you’re in the middle of the process of change, and your new home doesn’t feel all that homely yet – the following insights can help you to handle your homesickness. 

Moving consciously 

Moving means lots of paper work and chores. If you start doing them in time – making sure everyone has your new address, sorting your stuff, tossing out things you don’t want to keep – it saves you a lot of thinking in the middle of the move. Moving consciously: you can get used to your new place easily. 

Of course, a mess is part of the deal. Even the most organized mover is looking for one or two things now and then. By preparing in time, you allow yourself the time to focus on your feelings and all the changes in your life. That way, once you’ve moved, you don’t have to immediately think about administration and things like that. 

Take your time  

It works the same for all the changes in your life: getting used to new situations takes time. Are you aware of the fact that it takes time to let go of the old, and start with the new? Then don’t expect yourself to feel completely ‘normal’ after two weeks in your new home. By having high expectations, you only make things difficult for yourself, because you don’t pay attention to the emotions and needs you’re feeling right now. 

If you’re feeling sad or empty in your new home, so you just don’t know where you should put this vase (in the bedroom or in the living room?) don’t push yourself to make a choice. You don’t have to decide right now, and you can always change things. Allow yourself to experience unpleasant feelings during this transition. Accepting these feelings will make them soften.  

See opportunities 

Don’t forget you’re in an entirely new surrounding filled with chances. You may find a friend for life here, you may meet people who share your hobbies or find out the best pizzeria ever is just around the corner. Change keeps things interesting, even if it’s difficult sometimes.  

Tekst: Eline Hoffman  - Photo: Anthony Tran

Did your love leave you? Then this is a letter for you

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You feel abandoned. Thrown away like a garbage bag. Maybe even humiliated and betrayed. The future you dreamt of, is not the future they dreamt of: that was clear the moment they told you: ‘I don’t want you anymore’. The one who’s the kindest, cutest and most beautiful to you, wants to look for a better match or –even worse- already met them. 


It’s a punch that unsettles and undermines, dear lovesick one, and nothing less. Everything you thought was certain, everything you built your life around and based your future on, was broken down. Your basic safety is shaking. At first, maybe you escaped into all kinds of thoughts, just to keep the panic away. You still hoped the mistake would be put right, or got into the super positive ‘it’s for the best, for all of us’ mode. Your mind protected itself by taking the news in bit by bit. 

Anger, sadness and tears

You probably got angry too – with yourself, showing destructive self-reproach (you did it all wrong, no wonder they wanted to leave) and with them (what an incredible douchebag / tart, you were always out of their league). You may have tried to analyse the relationship, yourself and your ex, obsessively, as if there was a code you needed to crack that would explain the break-up and, thus, would make it possible to undo it. 

And then came grief. The heavy, pitch black grief about a loved one and everything you had together – maybe even a family. In the deepest abandonment, you feel a loneliness that –how inconvenient- can only be changed by the one who left. Grief pushes you to the ground, makes you broken-winged and deeply sad. Say it out loud. Say it in front of the mirror. ‘It’s over.’ And cry. 

Cry, knowing that the pain you let in, and allow to move through you, will never come back. All the tears you cry, can’t be cried again. It’s like having contractions: every contraction brings labor closer, every twinge of pain brings liberation. You’re not exaggerating, dear heartbroken one. Heartache leaves the same tracks in the mind as the flu, depression and addiction. The withdrawal symptoms can make you sick, literally sick. So be sick, and take good care of yourself. 

This time has something to offer you

You may not believe it now, but this time of pain has something to offer – if you’re willing to fully experience it all. This time will help you to learn about yourself, your attitude in love and the lovers you pick. It will motivate you to dig deeper, look closely at your life, get rid of old garbage and discover new aspects of you. You will turn grief into power, and gain courage from fear and disappointment. Believe me, I’m a survivor of heartache. 

Let yourself fall ill

‘If you desire healing, let yourself fall ill, let yourself fall ill’, are the words of poet Rumi that my co writer Marion Pauw and I chose for our book about heartache. Let yourself fall, and you’ll find yourself at a foundation that’s stronger than the ground of supposed certainty you were standing on. It’s your own foundation, you can’t fall through. 

The reward for letting yourself fall is that your heart will be open. You’re not putting a bandage on your broken heart, you’re taking care of the wound until it heals. It’s unnecessary to armor your heart and prevent it from getting hurt again. 

Dare to fly

Don’t rush looking for a new love, dear left one. The new love will appear, life will take care of that. It’s far more important that you’ll find the courage to love again – yourself, and, one day, someone else. With an open heart, more than ever. No longer uninhibitedly, because you’ve learned romantic love keeps changing and ends sometimes. 

Mark my words: you’ll have the courage to fly, because you’re prepared to fall. Falling is OK. After all, now you know how to get up again. 

With love and respect for how you’re handling this painful experience, 


Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Kinga Cichewicz


Want to get more done? Working fewer hours is the key

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Perhaps the thought makes you frown, but it’s true: if you want to be more productive, it’s wise to cut down your working hours. During a sabbatical, futurologist Alex Pang learned he got far more done when he took more time off – and drew a clear line between work and spare time.

The importance of rest

“Work is hugely overrated. We see stress and working overtime as something heroic, as proof of our ambition or dedication to our work. From that perspective, a lot of people see resting as something suspicious or even sinful. And, at least as striking, they see rest as uninteresting, as a negative space defined by the absence of work. Whereas it should be an activity with its own goals and values.

Resting is what you do when you stop working. But these days, the problem for most working people is not knowing when to stop working. It’s never done, right? Especially since we’re all connected 24/7 wherever we go, it’s harder than ever to find rest. And we, our employers and our loved ones are paying the price.”

Enough is enough

“Nowadays I draw a clear line between work and spare time. It’s the one or the other, not a mix of both. No one has ever had a creative breakthrough or a massive epiphany while they were doing a thousand other things.

The voice of God can only be heard in silence, as any monk will tell you. I work until I feel it’s enough – that’s also something you need to learn: sense when it’s enough for one day and it’s time to do something else. I distinguish better between what’s really important and what isn’t. I hope my book, ‘Why You Get More Done When You Work Less’, will help people realize that work and rest are complementary. If you want to be successful, you need to balance them. Stick to that and your life will change.”

Text: Liddie Austin

In Happinez - Find your balance, you can read the whole interview with Alex Pang. Check out our store finder, or order your copy here

New Year's resolutions? This is why you might not want to start in January

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Did you make a list of new year’s resolutions, because you always do? Then you might be way too early, because there’s a much better time to start. 

Lose a couple of pounds, enjoy life more, spend more time with the family, quit smoking: every year, lots of people start with new year’s resolutions. It’s an ancient tradition: 4000 years ago, the Babylonians already made promises to their gods at the beginning of a new year. 

January seems like a perfect, logical time to start changing your life for the better. While the last days of the year go by, you look back on the past year and decide about the things you want to change. With high expectations you look forward to the new year. But the busy holidays, the christmas get-togethers, dinners and other social obligations make it difficult to actually prepare for it. 

What would be a better time to start with new year’s resolutions? August or September! 

New season, new opportunities 

Just after the Summer holidays, a new season starts. School and studying begins again, you go back to work, back to the gym, with a relaxed summer time behind you. The summer holidays give you more than enough time to reflect on your life. Time to zoom out, and to realize in a sunny place what it is you’re really longing for. It bubbles up, you don’t have to actively think about it. 

In August and September, people feel more relaxed and have more energy – important if you want to make a change. After the holidays, we’ve detached from the normal, the every day life. It makes it easier to really change what we want to change. 

What do you really want?

The notion of ‘new year’s resolutions’ is often linked to restrictions. You have to improve your fitness, so from now on, you have to go for a run every day. You can’t eat delicious cake anymore; from now on, you say no to every treat. 

 With this approach, most people are likely to throw in the towel after a week or three. Unrealistic goals are impossible to reach, and besides, they often don’t spring from your deepest desires. If you really want to work on your condition, you know it’s better to start with a daily walk than a daily bootcamp. Especially if you’re just not the type for that kind of thing. 

So don’t put the bar too high. If you ask too much of yourself all at once, it will reduce your will power. It’s better to divide your resolutions into small steps. That way, you can be proud of yourself with every step you take. 

New year’s resolutions

Did you already make a list of resolutions for 2019? You may want to check your list again, just to find out how they make you feel. Do they make you feel genuinely enthusiastic, or do they make you feel tired and stressed? There’s still time for a change of plans – if you want, you can wait until August. 

 Text: Eline Hoffman - Photo: Amy Shemblen


20 questions to ask yourself at the end of the year

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You can start incorporating good habits any time you want to, you don’t need the start of a new year for it. However, this is a great time to reflect. Even if you’re not into new year’s resolutions, it’s useful to look back and make new plans. What went well, and what do you want to change in 2019? 

If you’re a perfectionist, you probably focus on the things you don’t cherish from last year. That’s a shame, because you must have experienced lots of small and bigger positive things too. Along the way, you’ve become an even better of yourself. If you focus solely on what could have gone better, you tend to miss these little victories. 

Ask yourself these questions 

This questionnaire made by psychologist and author Alice Boyes can help you to focus on the little successes. Answer all of the questions, or pick the ones you like. Don’t make it complicated, don’t worry if there’s a question you don’t know the answer to. The most important thing is to have fun, and enjoy the beautiful, funny, surprising and educational memories they evoke. 

* What’s the best discovery you made last year?
* What was the biggest surprise?
* What’s your favorite purchase?
* Which new routine or habit brings more efficiency, at home or at work?
* Which difficult challenges did you meet, in stead of walking away from them?
* At which point did you ask for help? 
* Which relationship surprised you in a positive way?
* Who should you thank for what they did for you last year?
* What did you learn or develop?
* Which dream or goal did you give up – to your satisfaction?
* Is there a quality or skill you’ve become more certain about?
* Which simple pleasures made you happy last year?
* Which goal did you work on, or reach?
* Which technological tool made your life easier?
* What did you change your mind about?
* What did you try without success, although it did teach you something?
* Did you start thinking about yourself in a different way? How?
* Is there a bias you had, that you’ve become aware of last year?
* Are there new things that make you feel good, or that you love?

Or ask someone else…

Asking the questions to someone else is just as interesting as asking yourself. Pick the questions you find most interesting and give them to your partner / family member / friend, and ask them to do the same for you. Interesting conversation guaranteed!

Text: Sanne Eva Dijkstra - Photo: Chinh Le Duc


This is how you make the best bucket list for 2019

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What made you happy last year, and can you take all that with you into 2018? Reflecting on the moments that made an impression last year, makes it easy to compose a bucket list for the new year.

By reliving the most beautiful, most special moments of 2018, and taking the time to write them down, you think of all the things you would want to do in the new year. What makes you tick? What brings you happiness?  

Meditate and find peace

Pick a day that feels good, and choose a place where you’re comfortable. Browse through the year using your diary and your photos. Once you’ve done that, do a mini meditation.

Think about the best times

Sit down in cross-legged position, and meditate holding a gem in your hands. The rest you find after meditating is the perfect starting position for making a scheme for the next twelve months. Add a word for each month. Jot down the best moments, and try to connect them in your mind: what do they have in common? 

Write your bucket list

Once you’ve done this, get a new, empty piece of paper on which you make your bucket list for 2019. Use the best moments of 2017 as a guideline. There it is: your own bucket list, a guide all through 2019.

Photo: Rawpixel


25 small acts of kindness to perform during the holidays

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year… Wouldn’t it be great if you could help others to have a wonderful time, too? It’s in the little things. 25 small acts of Christmass kindness. 

1.   Put up notes with a kind message in the elevator or at an ATM 

2.   Just chat with someone while waiting at the bus stop. 

3.   Bring a box of non-perishable foods to the food bank. 

4.   Take flowers to the nurses at the hospital. 

5.   Drop a book you enjoyed in someone’s mailbox. 

6.   Bring people who work outside coffee: the welfare worker, the person selling papers at the stall. 

7.   Help an elderly person packing groceries at the supermarket.

8.   Smile at the mother with the crying child at the train. 

9.   Drop a pair of gloves at a bench in the park, for people who can use them. 

10. Ask your single neighbor to come over for dinner. 

11. Give a small present to the mailman.

12. Donate to a small local charity.

13. Offer someone to go first when you’re waiting in line. 

14. Bring a Christmas decoration to an elderly person. 

15. Call your uncle or aunt, just to have a chat. 

16. Put up bird-seed in the garden. 

17. Take some toys to the children’s charity.

18. Donate blood at the blood bank. 

19. Send someone a message to wish them a nice day. 

20. Take some extra lunch to work and treat your colleagues to a nice salad. 

21. Send someone you love a postcard. 

22. Clean up garbage in your street or in the park. 

23. Volunteer at the food bank, the homeless shelter, the animal shelter…

24. Give an extra tip at the restaurant: working during the holidays is hard labor. 

25. Give away stuff you don’t use anymore. 



Why raising children means showing them, not telling them

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‘What’s she doing?’ my partner asked. Our baby daughter opened her mouth wide, kept it open for a while, and then shut her mouth again. 

‘I think she’s imitating us,’ I smiled, and I reminded me of how we had been playing with her that morning, after a night out, and how we both yawned every five minutes. Our daughter had been looking at us, fascinatedly. And now she was doing it, too. That day, her imitation yawns sometimes changed into a real yawn, and then we laughed. 

The situation made me realize something big and very scary: my child would imitate everything (everything!) we did. In fact, she was already doing it. If we were eating, then she wanted to eat; if we laughed about a joke, she laughed along with us; if daddy watched his phone, she wanted to take a look and if I was reading the newspaper, she wanted to have it (in order to eat the paper). I realized the following years would mainly be shaped by what we did, when we were with her, more than what we actually said. And that might be quite a confrontation. 

Focus on you 

I think raising children well, might be about focusing as much on your child as on yourself. I failed marvelously, that first year. I knew exactly when and how much she had eaten, prepared the most nutritive meals for her, but I needed my stomach to start rumbling to wonder: how about me, did I even have lunch? And then I’d quickly prepare a cheese sandwich and stuff it in my mouth, standing at the kitchen counter. Oh so wrong. 

I knew: for the following eighteen years, I will have to be as strict and as kind to myself as I am to her. It meant filling in the tax forms as if it was homework, getting to bed early, never being unreasonable, not eating too much candy. It also meant, that if I motivated her to go for her dreams and ideals, I could focus on my passions. And it meant that if I told her to believe in herself, I couldn’t do anything else. 

Showing them how to live 

Seven years later, it’s still number one in my ‘mission statement’ as a mom: I will not tell my children how to live, I will show them. 

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Tanja Heffner 

Why the holidays tend to disappoint us a little - and how to handle that

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December is the month of expectations – and unfortunately, events do not always meet up to them. Guess what: there’s a lot of beauty in that.

Chances are that one of these days you’ll get disappointed. And if you do, here’s your consolation: you’re not the only one. December is the month of high expectations. Not just for our kids, who are hoping for presents and want to stay up late, for whom the stories are exciting, and who are having a hard time processing all the stimuli – for us, adults, too. December is one big promise that almost makes you expect some disappointment from the start, because real days always turn out different than the days of your dreams.

This time… will it be different?

It’s darker than the rest of the year. It’s the month of contemplation, the month before your new year’s resolutions, in which you wonder: did I live up to the last ones? Did I ever live up to resolutions? It’s the month in which you read your annual horoscope and wonder if things will ever be that good. More than in other months, you long for warmth and togetherness, but the togetherness seldom is as harmonious as you hoped. There always is at least one family member who gives you trouble, before or during the Christmas dinner. It’s the month when you realize, more than ever, that you’re alone, or that you’re together with the wrong people. Or perhaps, you’re missing some one – or you’re missing no one, but still feeling this vague pain inside your heart. It’s the month in which you’ll get presents, that might not be what you were hoping for, but admitting to that feeling would be childish.

Expectations are useless

If you recognize one of these things this month, you’re not the only one. I think, that if we could measure it, December is the ultimate month of disappointment. Spiritual lesson #1 is: expectations are useless. But practicing what you preach is something else.

I’ve done my best to keep the holidays simple this year, and still I know things will be different than I imagine them to be. Because it’s December. Spiritual lesson #2: all feelings are OK, and they will disappear sooner or later – they blow away, as suddenly as they came. Allow yourself to be disappointed, and the feeling will change into happiness. Or at least, into something else. When expectations have gone, and disappointment too, life is fine. Even in December. It can actually be very good.

Text: Pauline Bijster - Photo: Josh Boot

Single during the holidays? Why it's OK to long for love

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The desire for a relationship can be strong during the holidays. That's nothing to be ashamed of: love and connection are universal human needs.

Even if you don’t think about your single status all that much, in December, there’s always a family member, colleague or touching commercial that makes you aware of it. Having a relationship is often seen as the highest ideal. That makes (some) sense, because having a relationship is great. Someone’s arm around you, a warm body next to you in bed, a loyal ally who tells you they love you on a regular basis. Being able to share your life, with all its ups-and-downs, feels good. So there’s nothing wrong about a strong wish for connection,

Desperate or honest?

We need to be reminded of that every once in a while, though – because in our society, relationships are put on a pedestal; sometimes it feels like you’re failing when you don’t have a partner. In December, this feeling can be stronger than ever. For instance, when you’re the only single person at a christmas dinner. Or when everyone around you has plans – as couples- for New Year’s Eve. Of course, these situations can make you feel shitty for a moment. But we hardly talk about that. If you speak up about feeling lonely, or wanting to have a partner, you risk being called ‘desperate’. And nobody likes to be pitied.

Denial is not a solution

That’s why many people suppress the nagging feeling of loneliness in December. Instead of sharing how they feel, they just focus on surviving Christmas and keep answering patiently how they ‘just haven’t found the right person’, when the third person asks them about their relational status. Feelings of sadness or loneliness are suppressed. And when they do get the best of us, destructive and judgmental feelings follow. These are unnecessary. Not having a relationship is not failure, and longing for love doesn’t mean your desperate. Love is one of the most universal needs. Besides, suppressing difficult emotions doesn’t make them go away. They keep slumbering and make all the happy energy disappear. The trick is to embrace your own desires.

Embrace your needs

Accept every emotion – both the happy ones and the sad ones. Just allow them to exist, and if you want to, share them with someone around you. By being aware of these thoughts, you prevent them from taking over.  Be sure not to fantasize too much about what life would be like if you had a partner, because fantasies like that cause a distance between you and the world, and make you forget about all the loving, interested, thoughtful people you can enjoy life with right now.

There are many single people for whom the holidays are just a nice period, and good for them. The point is: we shouldn’t punish ourselves for having certain feelings. Once we accept them, we treat ourselves like a good friend would: kindly and loving, without judgment.

Text: Joanne Wienen - Photo: Neven Krcmarek


How to experience a spiritual December (even if you're not religious)

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The last days of the year are the perfect time to focus on what's going on inside of you. These are the days to look for depth, inspiration and new things. But how to do that if you’re not religious?

The last weeks of the year are a time of extremes. On the one hand, there’s the darkness that makes you yearn for silence, peace and slowing down. You become more and more aware that the year is ending. On the other hand, there’s the Christmas parties, the family get togethers and the to-do’s –at home and at the job- that we would like to tick before the new year starts.

Experience holy days

How tempting is it to be in ‘action mode’ all the time during the last weeks of the year? And how pleasant would that be? Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being active, but by constantly doing things you risk missing the wealth of the period that’s lying in front of you. Originally, they are holy days, there’s a reason why we call them holidays.

The return of the light

Long before Christianity made its entrance, the time between December 24 to January 6 was regarded as magical. German and Celtic people celebrated midwinter, after the winter solstice on December 21. The celebration sometimes took eleven days and twelve nights. After the shortest day, they celebrated the victory of light on darkness. In a time without artificial light, people had no other option but wait faithfully for the return of the light and the lengthening of the days. 

The seasons appear through us

Nowadays, the natural elements hardly have an impact on our daily lives. The influence of the seasons, however, is tangible for many people, even if it is unconsciously. In his (Dutch) book about I Tjing, Jaap Voigt remembers readers about how we’re all part of nature. ‘There’s an ongoing life stream, that’s always existent; that can take hold of us and that we can choose to listen to,’ he writes. ‘The seasons appear, as it were, through us. (…) And our physical and mental state is an expression of the seasons.’

December 21: yin at its peak

Voigt uses an energetic division of seasons, based on the ancient wisdom of the I Tjing. By being aware of this natural rhythm, and living and working by it, you create more balance in your life. Winter, for instance, that starts on November 6 and ends on 4 February according to the energetic calendar, is the time of retiring and becoming silent. On December 21, it’s at its peak, and the influence of the yin energy is the most tangible. 

Exercise: reviewing your plans

Take some time, before Christmas starts, to reflect on your diary for the next two weeks. Oftentimes, we tend to plan lots of dates, fun activities and chores in the days between Christmas and New Year’s. It turns out that in reality, it’s hard to do all of that. That’s no wonder, if you realize that the energy of this time asks for silence, rest and reflection. If you need to, cancel a few appointments or postpone them into the new year. It will only enable you to enjoy the activities you will do this week more.

Text: Janita Naaijer - Photo: Josh Boot


Looking for love? Five ways to make room for it

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You long for a lover, a partner to share your life with. But how do you manage to be yourself in the process of searching and finding?

 If ‘the one’ doesn’t appear on your doorstep all too quickly, it can be difficult to remain the person you are. Fears pop up: will I meet expectations this time? Or will he leave me in no time? If you think like that, you risk changing your behavior into something you think they want to see. Are you so focused on capturing the prize that you forget what you’re feeling? Then you’ll lose yourself before the relationship has even started. Writer and psychotherapist Charlotte Kasl looked for help with the Buddha: suppose he had dated, what would his approach be?

 Tip 1. Tell the universe about your desire for love

Wouldn’t it be great if you could send some sort of cosmic contact ad into the air, and all you had to do was wait until the prince (or princess) would show up? It may sound crazy, but there’s some truth to that concept. Without knowing it, all of us are electromagnetic fields who send signals through words, body language and hundreds of non-verbal clues. All of these have an influence on the interaction in our relationships. Suppose you feel like you are destined to be alone – then you radiate a vibe that doesn’t match what you really want: to be together with someone.

Tip 2. Clean up unfinished business

A fight with your brother, a grudge against an ex lover, fear holding you down. All this unprocessed pain takes in more space than you might realize – space you could use for a new, light and loving kind of contact. By leaving old wounds behind and expressing your gratitude, your energy can flow freely and you let go of the tension in your body. So: write your brother a letter and try to clear the air. Offer your apologies if necessary.

Another thing that’s good for a new relationship, is to come to terms with your parents.  Or in Charlotte Kasl’s words: ‘In order to find an intimate partner, we have to “move out”.’ According to the psychotherapist, we need to examine the values and mentality we learned in our youth. We let go of everything that stands in our way.

Apart from that, it’s important to liberate ourselves from the apodictic stories we’ve made up about ourselves, based on the way we were brought up and our parents’ behavior. If we don’t, we’ll project all of it on a new partner: ‘Honey, I can’t see you tonight, because I have to work.’ ‘I see, so work is more important to you than I am…’

Tip 3. Let your higher self guide you – not your ego

There are tons of books about dating that tell you what to do and when to start dating. On the spiritual path, rules are simple, Kasl writes. Ask yourself if you are guided by your higher self or by your ego. The ego says: ‘I want someone who fills my void.’ The higher self says: ‘I want someone who helps me to be aware, who points out my blind spots to me and who will be a companion and a playmate on my journey.’ Oftentimes, fear is the root of behavior that comes from ego. It’s a fear of being spontaneous, of behaving naturally and trusting your instincts, in other words: a fear of being yourself. It’s important to take a quiet and loving look at what’s below this ego-driven behavior. You don’t have to fear these human feelings, it’s better to accept them than to lose the way to yourself.

The more you dedicate yourself to self knowledge and self acceptance, the more you will be able to dedicate yourself to loving another person, because you have nothing to hide or to be ashamed of. By letting people see the real you, you’ll find out if your new lover is ready to join you on your journey. And the more aspects of yourself you accept –and feel empathetic for-, the more you will be able to appreciate others the way they are.

Tip 4. Prepare your bedroom

You can literally make room for a lover with a little feng shui. The ancient Chinese interior art can make you translate your desire for a lover in your home, especially in your bedroom.

One method is to walk through your house and look at it as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Is there room for energy to flow freely, and make room for a loved one? Or do you need to replace things or tidy up? If your belongings don’t help you to progress, put them away, feng shui says. Clean out your closets: when they are full, a possible partner may unconsciously feel that there’s no place for them. Remove keepsakes of former lovers.

Symbolically invite someone to your bed by putting two pillows there or putting a bedside lamp at both sides. Remove electronics from the bedroom, all they do is distract you. Think about what symbolizes love and marriage for you. Translate your wish to be part of a couple by putting pairs of applicable objects in your room: two candles, two roses or two beautiful sculptures.

Tip 5. Accept transience

If you want to be able to love, you will need to accept that change, loss and sadness are inevitable parts of life. If you manage to do that, it will be less scary to you. We suffer less when we acknowledge suffering as part of life, Buddha says. A lot of suffering comes from the unrest we create when we demand life to be ‘fair’. In love, things change and end too. We say hello and goodbye. One moment we are connected, the next one we’re not. Tender moments are always different. Happiness and sadness exist together, they even belong together.

If we follow the spiritual path, Charlotte Kasl writes, we let things be the way they are, we look at them and see how they go by, like a breeze. Our partner will not be the same forever and we shouldn’t want them to be. We should look at eachother with a fresh look every day, with clear eyes and an open mind, so we can see the person who’s standing there today – not an image from the past.   

Text: Astrid Marlies Kieft - Photo: Pablo Heimplatz




Why spirituality is not a quick fix, but a matter of life long learning

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Taking an occasional yoga or meditation class? According to Buddhist teacher and psychotherapist Miles Neale, if you really want to achieve your full potential, there is so much more to discover about spirituality. He opposes what he calls ‘McMindfulness’, and advocates lifelong learning. 

It strikes Miles Neale how many people are seeking refuge in new, secular forms of spirituality. Unlike fifteen -let alone thirty- years ago, mindfulness, meditation and yoga are accessible to everyone now. You can take a yoga class at the gym, or do a YouTube meditation that only takes a few minutes. You ask if there’s anything wrong with that? 

Mindfulness is not enough

Well, there is, according to Miles, who’s a psychotherapist and Buddhist psychologist teacher. He named the fast, easy forms of spirituality ‘McMindfulness’ – yes, inspired by the fast food chain. Miles, a friendly, open guy, tells all about it through Skype. ‘The thing is: in our western world, it often seems like mindfulness is a panacea to cure all our modern maladies. But mindfulness is only one of the pillars of the Buddhist path to freedom. The other two are virtuous activities and the wisdom of interconnectivity. Mindfulness practice, to develop awareness, is a good start, but it’s not enough. ‘We have to develop a more accurate worldview that appreciates how we are all connected and then live more harmoniously with each other and the planet’, says Miles.

To him, McMindfulness means spirituality as a ‘quick fix’, that instantly makes you feel better. In the moment, it’s fine, but what does it bring in the long term, especially for our societies and the environment? ‘Life isn’t always fun, and growth doesn’t always come fast. Some processes take years, and growth continues throughout your life.’ He knows what he’s talking about. Miles has been studying Tibetan Buddhism since he was twenty (in 1996), he visited India and Nepal many times, and took courses with various teachers, including Geshe Tenzin Zopa

Buddhist nuns at Kopan Nunnery in Kathmandu (Nepal). Proceeds of Miles’ book go to the nunnery

Buddhist nuns at Kopan Nunnery in Kathmandu (Nepal). Proceeds of Miles’ book go to the nunnery

Make the world a better place

Miles' book 'Gradual Awakening - The Tibetan Buddhist Path of Becoming Fully Human' is a handbook consisting of thirty spiritual themes and contemplative practices. The author guides his readers on the Gradual Path to Enlightenment, which originated thousands of years ago in Tibetan Buddhism. The message: we can all develop into exceptional human beings, given the training, support and enough time. Miles says, authentic spiritual practice is not only for this life, but the next. Not only for oneself, but for others. Not only for temporary happiness, but for complete liberation. 'If everyone starts working more deeply on themselves throughout their life-span, the world will be a much better place. Solutions for the political, economic and environmental challenges are all within reach if we cultivate our natural capacity for wisdom and compassion, with as much determination as we seek wealth, fame and success.’

Not for everyone

A book filled with ways to discover your innate qualities and purpose, is probably not likely to be a bestseller. Miles is fully aware of that. ‘This book is not for everyone,’ he says. 'It’s for mature people who already know a little about mindfulness and spiritual growth, who are a little skeptical of or disappointed with the shallow promises of modern materialism, and who are ready to take things a step further than ‘McMindfulness', but don’t relate to the complicated, ancient Buddhist classics.’ Miles’ book uses neuroscience, psychotherapy and modern examples to make ancient wisdom more accessible to our current mindset. ‘And it's a book refer to for the rest of your life – not a book to work through in a few days.’ 

Miles says he had to write it, regardless of how many people would read it. Simply because he wants to convey his message - an alternative to quick, bite-sized forms of spirituality, which provides direction and depth. But of course he’s hoping many people will read it, if only because the proceeds have a special destination: Kopan Nunnery in Kathmandu (Nepal), one of the largest Buddhist women's monasteries in the world. That’s where he presented his book, in October this year. 

The future is female

‘For centuries, women could not pursue the full course to receive the equivalent of their doctorate in Buddhist studies - until the Dalai Lama insisted that nuns should have the same opportunities as monks. Many of the  Kopan nuns have experienced unimaginable hardships – cultural genocide, displacement, poverty, and being orphaned. And yet they find the perseverance, grace, compassion and humor to keep pursuing their dreams, studying for twenty-five years to become Geshe-ma, or masters of Buddhist philosophy and practice.

They are a great inspiration to me. They show how we can all overcome tremendous difficulties if we have the right motivation and goal in mind. And the fact that the women in Nepal and throughout the Himalayan region are now able to study, shows that something is changing. Women are empowering themselves all over the world, their era has come. The future is female.’

Text: Dorien Vrieling - Photography: Phil O’Leary

Feeling restless? This might calm you down

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If your mind keeps racing, or your body feels restless, there's a simple trick: change your breathing. You will be surprised of the effects, especially if you do a breathing exercise every day. 

We all know what restlessness feels like. Your breathing moves from your belly to your ribs or higher, your breathing speeds up. You tell yourself to breathe slowly. Breathe in, keep it for three seconds, breathe out slowly. If this works for you, it feels good. But perhaps it doesn’t do the trick for you. Breathing therapy might be worth the try for you. 

Breathing is easy, right? 

We can do without food for about six weeks, we can do without water for a couple of days. But we can do without breathing for no more than a few minutes. We breathe about 12 times a minute and during a day, our lungs let in and out about 8000 litres of air. For most of us, breathing is an automatic process. And thankfully so: imagine we would have to think about every breath of air our lungs welcomed. 

However, in some situations, it’s useful to be aware of your breath. The beauty of breathing carefully, is that you can decide yourself what you want to do with it. 

Breathing therapy: how, what and why

If you’re experiencing stress for a long time, your body gets disturbed. The same goes for your breathing: continuous tension may lead to a less efficient way of breathing. It costs a lot of energy and may cause unpleasant stress. 

Breathing therapy teaches you how to use different ways of breathing: from your belly, from your side and from your chest. An important aspect of the therapy is learning to recognize, and handle stress signals of your body. It makes breathing therapy a useful thing for every person. 

Many people who use breathing therapy, struggle with anxiety, depression, burn out or sleeping problems. However, problems with physical causes such as chronic pain, voice problems, and back problems can be a good reason to visit a breathing therapist. 

The variety among these problems shows how functional a healthy, regulated breathing is in many aspects. Curious as to what focusing on your breathing may bring you? Try it and allow yourself a moment of peace with the following exercise. 

Catch your breath 

A nice set of lungs and a quiet place, that’s all you need for this simple but effective exercise. This exercise helps you to focus on your belly breath and, if you repeat it regularly, it allows you to relax during the day. 

Ready? Here we go

Stand, sit down or lie down in a comfortable way (whichever you prefer, or whichever is possible in the space you’re in) and put both hands on your body. One at your chest, the other at your belly. Take a deep breath through your nose, hold your breath for a few seconds and breathe out through your mouth. Breathing in, you will feel your lungs expanding. Focus on nothing else but your body during ten minutes, while you keep breathing in and out. Do you feel it? The tension will decrease with every breath. 

If you really want the effect to last, make sure you do this exercise every day, for a couple of weeks. It will bring more peace and quiet in your mind, your body and, in the end, your whole life. 

Text: Eline Hoffman - Photo: Natalia Figueredo

5 reasons why you're feeling lonely in your relationship - and what to do about it

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Are you in a relationship, and feeling lonely sometimes – even though you love your partner to bits? According to clinical psychologist Jennifer Taitz, author of How to be Single and Happy, being in a relationship doesn’t necessarily mean being emotionally connected. 

Just like being on your own doesn’t necessarily mean you’re feeling lonely. Nor does feeling lonely in a relationship mean there’s something wrong with your relationship. 

These 5 things may cause your feeling, even if you’re in a healthy relationship. 

1.   You expect your partner to fulfill all your needs

According to Taitz, many people believe their partner should be everything to them. But even if you’re in a relationship, you need a bigger social life. It’s healthy to have your own life, apart from everything you do and share together. Nobody can be everything to you. Your love may be a great listener, but he may not understand why you’re so insecure about your looks. So why not discuss that with a friend or family member? Don’t expect your partner to give you everything you need, but make sure you have a bigger network, and several people you can trust. 

2.   The thrill has gone 

You may not realize you’ve neglected your friendships until you’ve been together for a few months (or even years) and the overwhelming feeling of being in love has gone. Once the butterflies have calmed down, you may start feeling lonely – perhaps because you’re missing your friends. There’s nothing wrong with putting your relationship first, but remember friendships are important too. Invest in them, even when the butterflies are raging and you can’t think of anyone else than that one person.

3.   You don’t explain what you need 

Sometimes you just want to blow off steam, but your partner gets in ‘solution mode’. Or they keep asking what’s going on, because they think you want to talk about it, while all you really need is a hug. No one can read your mind: if you’re unclear about what you need, your partner can only guess. Just tell them you need an arm around your shoulder, or if you do want to talk. 

4.   Your mindset makes you feel lonely

Your thoughts have a bigger impact on loneliness than the amount of people around you, according to Taitz. If you keep thinking no one understands you, or you keep stressing how different the two of you are, you start feeling more lonely than you need to. Change your mindset and instead, think: ‘I have to be clear about what I need’. It doesn’t mean you have to ignore the downsides of your relationship. Reflecting on yourself gives you the opportunity to change things if you’re feeling unhappy. 

5.   You need self-compassion

The most important relationship is the one you have with yourself. If you keep telling yourself you’re not good enough, or you don’t deserve love, you’ll start believing it. The negative approach has an impact on how you experience your relationship. Meditation and positive affirmations can help you to be more kind to yourself. That’s how you create room for more love: for yourself and your significant other. 

Text: Sanne Eva Dijkstra - Photo: Matheus Lira  

Setting a good example - and other things Nelson Mandela taught us about raising children

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It takes a village to raise a child, is how the saying goes. But where can we find that village? As a parent, you can use all the advice on raising children in the world. Especially if it’s Nelson Mandela’s advice.

About Mandela

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) was a South African anti-apartheid  activist and politician. He was involved in the battle against the South African apartheid regime. In 1963, he was sentenced with a lifelong emprisonment, and he spent 27 years in prison. In 1993, he received the Nobel Peace Prize. He stood up for equality by means of non-violent revolutions, and he firmly believed that dignity and love could change the world – not anger.

Trick 1: A good example will be keenly followed

Setting a good example is supposed to have a bigger influence on children, than answering their yelling with your own. One of the mantras of non-violent resistence is: don’t make hay when the sun shines, but wait until everyone has calmed down. Then you speak your mind about what bothered you. Teach children to channel their anger by doing so yourself.

By the way, this has an equally positive effect on grown ups. Increasing your self control, anger management. Taking a good look at your own behavior, instead of other people’s flaws, might be the solution in all kinds of relationships. In the end, that’s what non-violent resistence comes down to.

Trick 2: Take full responsibility

It’s important for the world, for society, for our families: taking full responsibility for our own anger, our discomfort, our own actions. Becoming better people and setting the right example. ‘One of the most difficult things is not to change society - but to change yourself,’ Nelson Mandela spoke shortly before the end of his presidency.

Text: Pauline Bijster - Photo: Janko Ferlic