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POSITIVE, WISE & LOVING LIFE

Do you have a soulmate? Guess what: there are three types of them

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It happens: some people meet for the first time and immediately know they’re meant for eachother. How many stars do you give your congeniality?

Type 1: Five star soulmates

What’s the most important thing between two soulmates in love? ‘The essence is about recognizing each other’s ideals and life mission,’ writer Geert Kimpen says. ‘It’s the feeling that you’ve known each other for years, and that you could talk for the rest of your lives. If you have the same big goal in life, the same ideals and values and you know where you want to go, and you recognize that in each other, you know you guys are soulmates.’

The relationship between soulmates always has a higher purpose. ‘When you’re in love, you see the other one in their ultimate realized form, in all the greatness they might become, and they see it in you. That’s when you’re on cloud 9. In fact, you see eachother much more detailed than later. You meet to motivate eachother to reach the ideal form. That’s a lifelong path that never gets boring, it keeps on challenging you in new ways, together you grow towards the shared ideal.’

Indian philosopher Osho said you can only have one of these exceptional encounters. According to him, it’s about completely coinciding at each chakra level: ‘When all seven chakra centers of the man resonate in the same frequency as all seven chakra centers of the woman, you’ve found your soulmate,’ he said. ‘Two persons function like they’re one: two bodies, one soul. It’s absolute harmony, love in its ultimate shape.’ He says it happens very seldom. 

Type 2: Four star soulmates

There are also soulmates with fewer stars. Friends, siblings or other duos who feel so connected, it’s like they were born in the same star. ‘We are twin souls, made from the same stardust,’ a woman says about her friend. What is that like?

The notion ‘twin souls’ roots from the idea that our actual soul is something big and radiant, like a spiritual sun in an immaterial world. From this soul, two or three drops fall down on the earth to experience new things and learn new lessons. Whoever you are, there’s a drop of that golden soul fire within you; somewhere on the planet, there’s at least one other person with a drop of the same soul.

You can meet this other person, but (according to the theory) it will only happen once you’ve reached a certain level of development. If, for instance, you can see clearly what you’ve learned in previous lives and if you know what you’re here for. And if you’re able to recognize the same life mission in someone else. 

The twin soul can be your partner, but not necessarily. It can also be your sibling or a good friend. Whoever it is, they give you a feeling of safety and freedom. The two of you motivate each other to give the best you can give, to grow and blossom. Together, you’ll learn important life lessons. They are not always fun or easy, you may experience a great loss or go through a severe crisis. Most importantly, you respect each other deeply, you enrich eacho ther’s lives, and they make you feel heard and understood. 

Type 3: Three star soulmates

According to another story from the spiritual world, we all share the same spiritual family or we’re all members from a group of souls that once was one single soul, at the very first start of creation. It was split in two, that ‘s the story of Adam and Eve. But it proceeded, according to this theory: with every new phase of creation, there was another separation.

Since we’re in the fourth phase or round of creation, every soul exists out of sixteen people who belong to the same group of souls. It means you could meet fifteen soulmates in your life. They can be partners, parents, children, family members or friends. It is said that only five out of sixteen have to reach a certain level of development in order to make sure that all sixteen will meet in a lifetime. Then the group of souls is complete and the members enforce eachother.

This kind of soulmates has three stars. For them, the same thing goes: you have a strong connection, and sometimes you feel like you’ve known each  other from earlier incarnations, but there can also be frictions and even severe conflicts.

A starry sky full of soulmates

Buddhism offers another perspective. According to Buddha, people don’t have separate souls at all: we’re just waves in an ocean, we’re water – our Buddha-nature. Essentially, all is one, and once you get in touch with that, you’ll experience a feeling of love.

When you look at it like this, everyone is your soulmate – all seven billion people on the earth and all the zillions who have lived here or will live here in the future. You’re a soulmate to all life, everything in creation, all the stars and planets. One day we will know, feel, experience it. Then we’re complete in ourselves, we’ll have united everything that’s male and female in our own souls and we’ll have become whole people. At that moment, our relationships will have just as many stars as the sky.  

Photo: Pablo Heimplatz

 

 

How to love your body (we bet you haven't tried these 7 tips yet)

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You probably heard it all before: how we should love our bodies. Maybe you keep thinking about what Mother Nature hasn’t given you (fuller hair, longer legs) or what you should work on (less weight, more muscle)? Guess what: it’s possible to change what you think when you're looking in the mirror.

1. Think about your 16-year-old self

Get your box filled with old photographs and look at the girl you were. Back then, what did you think while looking in the mirror or standing in the fitting room? Did you compare yourself to your friends, who were all a bit taller, slimmer, had better hair? I bet that looking at the pictures now, you think: I should’ve appreciated myself more, I was far more beautiful than I thought. Imagine looking at this year’s pictures in twenty years. Wouldn’t it be great if, in 2038, you could think of 2018 as the year when you started really appreciating yourself? 

2. Look past the looks

Make a list of all the things your body enables you to do. Compare it to a day in bed with the flu: there are so many things you can’t do when you’re sick (or, at least, that cost a lot of effort). Your body is probably able to do most of the following things: take you places, hug, eat and enjoy your food, make love, dance. It may have carried a child, or it will in the future. The list is endless. Why would you just focus on what your body looks like?

3. Turn the mirror into something fun

If you find yourself ignoring the mirror, it’s time to take some measures. Make it a habit to smile at yourself in the mirror. Just like you would when looking a friend in the eyes. Put a nice postcard on the mirror, with a quote that makes you feel strong, or a cute illustration. It sounds simple, but it affects your self image.

4. Ask your friends…

If you really don’t know what makes you beautiful, ask your lover, friends or family. Sure, it makes you feel vulnerable. But your question might be the starting point of a nice conversation that doesn’t just teach you something about you (‘she likes my mouth?!’) but also about your friends, because they will probably tell you about their insecurities. And then you probably don’t know what they’re talking about.

5… but don't attach too much value to others' opinions

Insecurities about how you look often have to do with the way you think others feel about you. A harsh remark about your looks can stick with you for a long time, especially when someone made it at a time when you were insecure. It changes the way you look at yourself. First of all, usually, you don’t know what people are thinking (see #4), but more importantly: it’s not about other people’s opinions. It’s your body, you are the only one whose opinion matters. And although it might sound like a cliché, if you’re happy with your body, you look even prettier. 

6. Stop proposing conditions

In the last few years, the body positivity movement has grown significantly. These days, in the glossy magazines, we see models in all kinds and shapes. Hurray for that! Does every body positivity role model make you think ‘it’s great how she loves her body. I will too, once I have…(lost weight, grown muscles, started feeling better)?’ Then, in fact, you’re cheating. Accepting who you are means accepting that you’re not perfect, and knowing that you’re worth it, with every imperfection.

7. Ask for help

It may sound heavy: ask for help. But think of it this way: if you are having a hard time appreciating your body, you’re making things hard for yourself. If someone can help you to change the way you feel when you look in the mirror, why not give yourself that present?

Want to read more?

Instagrammer Megan Jayne Crabbe (@bodyposipanda – a colorful explosion of curvy girl pictures, fun illustrations and inspirational quotes) wrote a wonderful book on how to love your body: Body Positivity Power – How to stop dieting, make peace with your body and live.

Text: Dorien Vrieling

 

4 ways to gain access to your intuition

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There are several ways to gain access to your intuition – the vast cosmic awareness from which inner knowledge, new ideas and insights are born. These four methods help you to let your intuition do the talking.

Method 1: Sleeping

‘Let me sleep on it’: that’s always a good idea. Ask the question or verbalize the quandary you’re confronted with clearly, preferably out loud, before you go to sleep. Or write it down and put the paper on your bedside table or under your pillow. Now you can let go of the problem: it’s taken care of. Just have a good night’s sleep and let the spirit world solve your problem.

In your sleep, you descend into the deepest of your soul, and find cosmic awareness. Possibly, you dream of an answer, but you don’t have to – so don’t worry if you usually don’t remember your dreams.

Sometimes when you wake up (or in the shower) you immediately know the answer. Other times, you have a ‘revelation’ later in the day. If the day doesn’t bring you answers, repeat the process. If it’s a big question you’re struggling with, it may take several nights to find out what it is you need to do.

Method 2: Visualization

Many spiritual methods use a guide. It’s best to get started in a relaxed state. You just have a seat in a comfortable chair, imagine you relax completely, that your whole body is warm and lax, especially by imagining there’s a warm water stream flowing over your shoulders. After that, you can slowly count to ten, while descending ten-step stairs or walking up a hill – all in your mind, of course.

When you get to ten, you imagine your guide is waiting there for you and welcomes you kindly. You ask them your question. Quietly wait for the answer and thank them before getting up the stairs again, or down the hill. If there’s no answer, it’s probably too soon. Or you’re too focused on an answer, and therefore too tense. Somewhere in the days after, you might suddenly feel the answer arise in you. Don’t forget to thank your guide.

Method 3: Be your own guide

You can also imagine you are your own guide. Imagine you’re in an ideal place, in an ideal situation. Everything is alright, you feel relaxed, nothing is bothering you. What would you recommend to someone else posing your question or struggling with your problem?

If you need to make a difficult choice, remember something that recently made you very happy. Think about the feeling it gave you and enjoy it for a second. Then decide which choice suits that feeling the most: choice A or choice B?

Method 4: Oracles

An oracle can help you to get in touch with your inner knowledge, too. For it to work, it has to resonate with something you already know about yourself – even if you’re not aware of it. That’s why you have to put up a little ceremony for most of them: you have to shake cards and lay them out, or throw a couple of coins or dices. All of these are ways to distract you from normal, logical thinking – away from the left side of your brain. It brings you in a different, meditational sate, the state where you find access to the source of deep knowledge. The oracle’s answer leads you to your own inner source of wisdom.

Photo: Brooke Cagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

When parenting is a struggle, this is how you find wisdom in yourself

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You can look for solutions, but learning to accept that there isn’t one yet, might be more helpful.

Question of conscience: what do you think when your kids are going at eachother’s throats? ‘What am I doing wrong?’, ‘Why me?’ Once you realize this happens in thousands of families, you can look at it more kindly. It’s only normal. Just put the kettle on, get yourself a cup of tea and be friendly towards yourself. Acceptance is key.

Learning to accept it

We’re so used to looking for solutions. If we’re cold, we put on a sweater, if we’re thirsty, we grab a drink. When it comes to raising children, it’s usually not that clear what we should do. You can look for a solution, but you can also learn to accept that there isn’t an ideal one yet. There’s something going on, you better learn to deal with it in stead of fight it. Just accept that you don’t always know what’s best. That’s how you find the wisdom in yourself.

Driving you crazy

Your own children know exactly which buttons to push to unleash the dragon inside you. They can drive you crazy. Do you know the feeling, when you lash out at them so hard you hardly recognize yourself? If a fight with your child stresses you out too much, you tend to go back to your earliest experiences: back to when you were raised. You stop reacting like a ‘healthy adult’, but you get in ‘vulnerable or angry child’ mode, feeling attacked, or you act like the ‘punishing or demanding parent’ you know from when you were young.

Like two angry children

Situation: my youngest comes up to me in the schoolyard, crying, saying his big brother and a friend kicked me. I ask my eldest and his friend to join us. The friend comes up to us, my eldest refuses to. He says something cheeky, I get frustrated because he doesn’t do as he’s told. Like two angry children, we lash out at eachother. In the end, he walks away and I decide to listen to the friend first. That’s how I find out that my eldest didn’t do anything, but that my youngest mentioned his name because it was hís friend and he was there too. After all, I realize that because of his aggressive behavior, I acted like the vulnerable child and then turned into the demanding parent. My eldest felt so cornered by me –his angry mother, in the middle of the schoolyard – that he immediately became defensive. A balanced grown up would probably have taken a few breath before talking to him… Fortunately, we’re never too old to learn.

Take some distance

Learning to recognize whether you are acting from your child position or from an adult from your youth, you can mention it to yourself: that’s right, I’m in this or that mode. It creates some distance, allowing you not to identify with the feeling and to take some time to react differently. We tend to push away these ‘old’ feelings, while the only way to change old patterns is by acknowledging them and allowing them to exist.

Anger is OK

That was the question of conscience asked by my mindfulness teacher about, too: can you endure your child’s emotions? Can your child be angry? When there’s anger or sadness, can you just allow it to be there, without reacting? Anger doesn’t have to be erased or solved immediately, as long as you are simply there. That makes your child feel safe to express themselves: I can be angry, mom won’t panic. You teach them all emotions are welcome: anger, fear, sadness. Acknowledge these feelings, that are often put away or hidden. Cherish them, they can teach you a lot of things (and if you tell your kids today, it saves them a lot of work later).

Whose pain is it, actually?

Feelings of not being seen, not being heard, are universal. Each of us sees others from their own upbringing, patterns and shortcomings. How you were raised becomes your second nature. It helps to ask yourself: do you react the way you do because you want to help your child, or because it touches something old in you? It all starts with acknowledging, enduring and regulating your own emotions. If you can welcome them, it can be healing. Not just for you, but also for your children.

The key to mindful parenting according to founding father Jon Kabat-Zinn:

1 Sovereignty – can you see the child the way they are, without wanting to change them from self-interest? Respect their autonomy; that’s how you allow them to show their true self and find their own way. Everyone wants to be who they really are, become who they can be.

2 Empathy – kids always know when we’re not connected to them. Be aware, not just physically, but with your mind and your heart. That’s how children feel the confidence they need to tell you about their struggles.

3 Acceptance – you don’t have to solve the problems a child brings up immediately, as long as you let them know you are there and listen to what’s going on, even if you can’t imagine precisely. Just by allowing it to be, you make confusion or insecurity bearable.

From: Everyday Blessings, the inner work of mindful parenting.

How to get through the week mindfully:

·      In situations that involve intense emotions, try to find out whether these are your emotions or your child’s. Do you feel sorry for them for being bullied, or are you thinking of your own youth?

·      Having an argument at home? Try to see a dispute with your child as a meditation. Breathe in, breathe out. They behave in a certain way, he aren’t their behavior. Can you see hem for who they really are?

·      Try a walking meditation. You can easily do it on the way to the coffee machine, to the supermarket or walking the dog. That’s how you learn to look at the world around you differently and everything feels refreshingly new.

Text: Nicole van Borkulo - Photo: Carolina Sanchez B

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Want to strengthen your relationship? 3 tantra exercises for beginners

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Tantra teaches you to handle your sexual energy in a new way: consciously, with a heart that’s involved, attentive to everything that’s happening. It strengthens every aspect of your love life.

Trantra is much more than sex. It’s where bodies and minds meet. In our modern, western society, sex is focused on an orgasm. Tantric sex is about much more. It helps the body to let go of tension, it helps the heart to be confident and open, and it helps the mind to be free, playful and calm. Besides, tantra promises to have a positive influence on your relationship: the intimacy with your partner will grow, there will be more lust, and your relationship will deepen.

Exercise 1: Befriend your body

1.     Make sure no one will disturb you.

2.     Prepare yourself a nice hot bath with some scented oil, or turn on the shower. Use candles, incense, music and flowers to turn your bathroom into a temple.

3.     Touch your heart with your hand, feel the warmth and lovingly greet yourself (in tantra, this is called the ‘heart greeting’).

4.     Get into the bath tub, or in the shower, and let all the tension flow from your body. Then, attentively, touch every part of your body and say or think something kind about it.

Exercise 2: The intimate embrace

1.     Embrace your partner, close your eyes and think about what you’re feeling now. Keep embracing for about three minutes.

2.     Relax your body more and more, and make sure you use your whole body in the embrace.

3.     After two minutes, pay attention to your partner’s breath. Let your breathing and their breathing become one, so the two of you slowly breath in and out.

4.     Sit down and look eachother in the eye. Tell them candidly about what you felt about yourself and your partner.

5.     Listen attentively to what your partner was feeling.

Exercise 3: Stimulate your senses

1.     Make sure you will not be disturbed and block your diary for at least an hour.

2.     The ‘giving’ partner has prepared the room with gentle lighting, candles and aromatic scents, and trays with attributes.

3.     The ‘receiving’ partner can lay down and is blindfolded.

4.     The giving partner surprises the receiving partner with, for instance, grapes (seedless), lychees or small pieces of pineapple, drops of liqueur or pieces of chocolate; with sensual strokes using feathers and other materials, essential oils, music and whispers of sweet or passionate words.

5.     The giving partner takes off the blindfold. Avoid using words. Just look eachother in the eyes for a while and then take the time for a long embrace.

6.     Reverse roles (or do so some other time).

Exercises from: Margot Anand, ‘Love, sex and awakening.’  

How your mom influences the way you feel about motherhood

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Maternal love has a different meaning to each of us. Some of us romanticize it, others are critical – all depending on how we experienced our own moms. According to Susan, growing up means realizing not every woman is like our own mother.  

The late Maya Angelou, famous writer and mentor to Oprah Winfrey, asked mothers one question: do your eyes light up when your child enters the room? If they do, all is fine. She was right. Pure maternal love makes children feel special, regardless of their qualities and achievements. They don’t have to work for it, just walking into the room is enough.

Full bloom

Classic maternal love is a supporting power. The archetypical Mother nurses, nurtures, comforts and cherishes. In all spiritual traditions and mythologies there’s a Mother Earth. The earth carries all the world in her womb, it feeds, supports, lets everything come to full bloom and then generously welcomes it again.

The personal meaning of maternal love, though, is different for every one of us. Depending on your own history it sounds secure, suffocating, soft or cold. For me, maternal love means safety, kindness and warmth. I never felt like I asked too much from my mother. As a little girl I must have bent her ear and I still tell my mom all about my life: what I think about, how I feel, what I’ve been doing. She never seems to get bored. The only reason that I’m a bit reserved sometimes, is that I don’t want to worry her.

Safe in her arms

Now that I’m a mom myself, and I see how she treats my children, I see her role more clearly. I see endless patience, inexhaustible attention, loving acceptation. I also see how she finds it hard to set boundaries, how she tends to efface herself.  Every time my mom enters my house, the kids are welcome to fall into her arms and stay there for a while. For her, being a mother is about ‘how can I be there for you?’ and ‘ how can I support you on your journey?’. If you have a mom like her, you think all women are like that. And you think all you have to do to have a healthy relationship to others is to give all you’ve got. It’s quite a disenchantment to find out that reality is different. Even people you unconsciously regarded as mother figures, can leave you baffled.

Not every woman is like your mom

Depending on the experiences of your youth, you will have to a. stop romanticizing motherhood or b. put off the armor. If you do, you see things clearly. That’s what growing up is about, I suppose: realizing not every man is like your father and not every woman is like your mother. It enables you to see people for what they are. If you do, you can see a person enter a room and see how they are special, in their own way. Your eyes will light up for all people, regardless of their achievements and qualities. That’s the beauty of it: you don’t have to be a mother to give maternal love. 

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Leander Cesar Santana

A letter to the rebels, the troublemakers, the difficult ones - the world needs you

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Are you one of these people who are called ‘difficult’, a rebel, a troublemaker? Susan Smit wrote you a letter.

Dear stubborn one,

Your heartbeat raises, the injustice is pulsating in your temples, every inch of you is revolting – because what’s happening is not just, not true. And there you go, you fly off the handle. Right then and there, your voice cracking; or some time after, carefully prepared. You don’t just let things happen, you speak your mind. For yourself, for someone else, or for the greater good.

If you, dear stubborn one, are a man, you will probably be regarded as outspoken and bloody-minded. If you’re a woman, people will probably label you ‘hysterical’ and ‘difficult’ and in earlier times, you would have risked being put away in a mental institution (diagnosis: neurotic).

You know the rules, you just don’t want to obey them

You, with your emotions lying on the surface, who can be read like an open book, you just don’t want to play the game. The game of pretending, of keeping up with the Joneses, playing by the rules and conforming, I mean. The people who do play that game build a career for themselves, they want to be liked, are pleasant company and seem to live their lives without making an effort. You, on the other hand, don’t know how to conform and you don’t want to. You know the rules, you just don’t want to follow them if that means you have to turn your back on who you are and what’s right.

Every time I give a lecture at a high school I meet young stubborn ones, like you probably were. Some of them are dressed in black, behave grouchy and reclusive; others wear colorful, edgy clothes and are very talkative, but they have one thing in common: they’re sensitive, have a big sense of justice and are dedicated to the truth. They’ve just found out that life isn’t fair, and each of them rejects the system, all in their own way. I know what they’re like. My dear big brother was just like them.

Focus on the brittle things

If, in your darkest moments, the world seems like a hypocritical and opportunistic place and you think about giving up, then focus on the brittle things. All things innocent, that you defend with your sharp sword: the children, the shy ones, the vulnerable ones who don’t speak up. Look at them, hold your head up high and keep telling the truth. In order for a new direction to be found, one of us has to have the guts to walk off the tracks.

Sometimes, people will judge you for your harsh way of saying something or your dramatic methods. The form will be used against you, while it’s usually the meaning of your message that doesn’t suit them. If you can manage not to let it get to you, being misunderstood, judged and mocked, you’re free. If you live your life the way you are without thinking twice about ‘how it’s supposed to be’ or what makes you successful in society, and if you’re willing to constantly reflect on your beliefs, you have an irrepressible power and nothing can stop you.

You bring change 

The world needs difficult people. Rebels, troublemakers. People who protest and intervene. Who don’t just accept something because it’s ‘normal’. Think about it: every form of change, improvement and civilization against the stream was caused by people like you.

Dear tumultuous one, maintain your fire and use it for the greatest good. You need courage, sincerity and dedication for that, and sometimes it seems to be pointless, but your voice makes a difference and so do your actions. Time doesn’t play with us, as you very well know; we play with time.

With love and respect for who you are,

Susan

 

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Gabriel Nunes

 

 

How to find the job you've been dreaming of, in 4 steps

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Wouldn’t it be great to have a job you really love? On our way to the ideal job, many of us tend to throw up roadblocks. Take your dreams seriously and pave the way for a life that suits you.

One person’s dream is working at Doctors Without Borders, another is perfectly happy making beautiful flower bouquets. What matters is that your job gives you energy. You do what you’re good at and what inspires you, and the hard times (that come with any job), are no obstacle to persevere. A nice definition of a dream job: work you love so much that you would even do it without getting paid.

Let go of beliefs that restrict you

Does all of this sound like it doesn’t really concern you? Many people are afraid to follow their heart. They see all kinds of obstacles and make up excuses: ‘I can’t have my ideal job, because I’m too old, or too young, I can’t make any money off of it…’ All of these are limiting convictions that you need to let go of.

If you want to make your dreams reality, you’ll have to take your wildest fantasies seriously and explore them. Test the obstacles you find during your exploration. Is your fear justified, or are you making up an excuse?

In 4 steps towards your dream job

The crucial question is: what unique thing do you have to offer to the world?

Step 1: Insight

In order to find out what you have to offer to yourself and others, you reflect on the highlights in your life the last couple of years. A highlight is a situation that energized you and that still makes you happy if you think about it. You were in your element, then. Work out the three biggest highlights using open questions:

Who (were there)?

What (happened exactly)?

Where (did it take place)?

When (did it happen)?

Why (was it so special)?

Step 2: No more excuses

You’ve discovered a couple of things that you’re good at, that make you happy and that you would love to make a living out of. Do you think your dream is unrealistic? There’s a fun way to discover if you’re dealing with an excuse. Normally, you introduce yourself to new people telling them some things about your present life: what you do, where you live… This week, tell five strangers (in the street, on the train, wherever) about yourself through the dreams you haven’t actualized yet. For instance: ‘I am a writer’, or ‘I’m the owner of a hotel’. You’re true to your dream, you’re simply pulling the story a little further into the future. Use present tense and talk as if you’ve already made reality of the wish. No conditions, no ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’.

If you’re not sure what it is exactly that you want to do, make multiple versions of your ‘introduction story’. If you experiment with this, two important things happen: you immediately feel which story suits you the best and which one brings the most joy. Besides, you’ll find that to strangers, there’s nothing unusual about your story. What seemed to be an impossible dream to you, is very realistic to others. So that dream of yours might not be all that far-fetched.    

Step 3: Make a translation

Make a list of 20 special things you have to offer, and write down how you could make money out of them. If you have a passion for animals, fantasize about all the possible jobs you could do with it.

If, in step 1, you had the insight that you’re good at imagining yourself in someone else’s situation, think about ways to use this talent in a paid job. Don’t limit yourself; think of as many ways as possible. Stress the jobs that you like the most. Could this be your perfect job?

Step 4: Action

People like talking about their jobs, especially when the job is their passion. Look (for instance using Google) for at least twenty people who are doing a job similar to your dream job. Try to find their contact information and send them an email to schedule an appointment with them. Face to face, you can ask them all the questions you want to ask: about the job, about the way they got the job, or ask for advice about how to find a similar job yourself. If they can do it, you can do it too.

Text: Dominique Haijtema

This is how you persevere in your new year's resolutions - for real, this time

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January is already a week old, and so are your new year’s resolutions. Are you still doing great? Good for you. Is it getting a bit harder to persevere? These five tips will help you to keep up the spirit.

Tip 1: Don't forget who you are

In fact, all change starts with this. If you love pies and cake, don’t ask yourself to cut out all pastries. There’s no need, and it will only frustrate you. The key to a healthy diet is moderation. So save the lemon meringue or pecan pie for special times – and in the meantime, go easy on the cookies, crisps and all the other snacks that are, oftentimes, not even all that good.

If you resolved to start exercising this year, while you’re not that much of a sports fanatic, please be true to yourself. Don’t expect yourself to go for a run everyday or to work your bum off at the gym, pick something you like. Why not start dancing, boxing, hulahooping? If you do something you enjoy, it’s much easier to persist.

Tip 2: And know your excuses

In Gretchen Rubin’s book ‘Better than Before. Mastering the Habits of our Everyday Lives’, the writer mentions all the evasions we make up if we don’t want to follow our plan. There are lots of them. Most of the time, we know we’re making excuses, and the more aware we are of that, the easier it gets to counter the evasion. For every excuse, we can think of many good reasons to go to the gym / meet a friend / prepare a healthy meal / whatever it is that you wanted to do in the first place.

Tip 3: Take your time

It’s inherent to the whole concept of resolutions: starting from January 1, you’re changing – overnight. If you light a cigarette that day, or eat more than one cookie with your tea, all is lost. Right? No, it’s not. By thinking you have to be perfect from January 1 on, you’re already sabotaging the change you want so badly. Research shows that gradual change has a much bigger –and more sustainable- effect. Look at your resolutions as a plan that you want (not: have to) carry out, a plan that has its ups and downs. Just like everything else in life. You’ll see that, by persisting and forgiving yourself every time you go wrong, it will get easier.

Tip 4: Be kind to yourself

Self criticism is all too human, but think about it: when was the last time a lecture (‘That’s it’ ‘Gosh, you’re weak’) ever motivated you? The opposite is much more effective. Praise yourself for the change you have initiated, and keep encouraging yourself, just like a good friend would. You’re doing great.

Tip 5: Eyes on the prize

In this time of year, when literally everyone seems to be working on their resolutions, we sometimes tend to forget why we wanted all this. Suddenly, it seems like we’re taking part in a competition – but when did we sign up for that? Don’t get frustrated when your colleagues seem to be ‘ahead’ of you or if they seem to be more ‘persistent’ than you are. You’re not doing this for them, you’re not doing this to ‘win’, you’re simply doing this for you. 

Text: Dorien Vrieling

Do you feel like you're not good enough? This is how you develop self love

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Teaching people how to love themselves and replacing self criticism by thoughts of love and positivity: that’s the life’s work of Louise Hay, who passed away last year. Her philosophy helped Louise to survive a difficult youth.

Suppose you have a tomato seed. You put it in the soil and cover it carefully. You lovingly water it and feed it, and then you wait patiently. If a fragile, little plant emerges, you don’t yell at it: ‘You’re not good enough, you don’t even look like a tomato plant!’ You follow its growth, filled with hope. One day, you reap the tomatoes you expected.

In her books, Louise Hay often made the comparison of the tomato plant. You are worth the same patience and loving care, while you evolve. Somehow, though, we don’t always show ourselves the same appreciation and care. There’s something within us that never thinks we’re good enough, no matter what we do.   

Thoughts create experiences

Louise wanted to point out to us that critical, limiting and negative thoughts fill our lives with stress, unrest and absence, while our existence can also be loving, fulfilling and positive. It’s a central notion in her philosophy: your thoughts create your experiences. If, for instance, you think you will only attract unpleasant people, these people will indeed cross your path. And if you think that you have to accept a lack of rest, money or pleasure, it will turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Positive thinking

According to Louise, it all starts with awareness. Once you realize that you have lots of critical, limiting or negative thoughts about yourself, you can change them. That’s when everything changes.

Letting go of limitations

How do you change your thinking? According to Louise, you have to start with little things. Take baby steps and be determined to push through. Sometimes it will be easy for you to replace negative or critical thoughts by positive, affirming thoughts. Other times, it’ll be like lifting a rock with a feather.

All that matters, is that you enter the depths of your soul and let go of more and more limitations. Every time you judge yourself or your life, you open yourself to the endless intelligence of your true self, and the endless possibilities that life gives you.

Be alert to miracles

To stay motivated, it’s important to be alert to every little miracle during your process of change. Notice every positive change in yourself, in your life or in the people around you. It motivates you if someone is helpful, or if something goes smoothly, even if it’s just a green traffic light.

Being in the ‘now’ is a key concept. Louise: ‘You don’t look for the ingredients for your next meal in the garbage, right? The past doesn’t give you the elements you need for a bright future. What you did then, what others may have done to you, doesn’t have to influence your future. Let go of everything but love. This very moment, the here and now, is the moment of your power. You are the only person who’s able to think your thoughts. Only you can decide if they are true or not. Sometimes people come up to me and tell me I changed my life. I always tell them: that wasn’t me, it was you.’

This is how you change negative thoughts

 

Step 1. Be aware of your convictions

Pick a subject, for instance relationships, your body, family, money or work. Write down your thoughts about it, uninhibitedly. Or ‘monitor’ yourself during the day, if that’s easier for you. Examples of convictions: I hate my body, or: I’m always in need of money.

Step 2. Replace negative thoughts

For every negative conviction, find a positive replacement. For instance: I am happy with my body, because it takes me where I want to go, or: there’s always enough money to fulfill my needs.

Step 3. Use positive affirmations

Pick a positive thought that appeals to you, for instance because it fits your day or your needs. Read it at least ten times today, or say it out loud. Make sure you can’t escape. Put a post-it on your door, a reminder in your phone or a note in your diary.

Step 4. Notice the little miracle

The day after, repeat your affirmation or pick a new one. Be sure you’re open to subtle changes in your mood, your work, relationships etcetera. ‘Little miracles’ like that help you to persevere, until replacing negative thoughts by positive affirmations has become a habit.

Text: Astrid Maria Boshuisen

 

 

 

The perfect Sunday lunch dish: creamy onion soup with grilled onion flower and parsley oil

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The onion is one of the most versatile vegetables ever. If it’s raw, it’s a bit spicy, if you bake it, it’s an essential base for zillions of dishes and if you slowly stew it, it tastes sweet. Besides, it’s incredibly healthy.

Lunch dish, serves 4

Parsley oil

Start by making the parsley oil. Put a handful of flat leaf parsley (washed and drained) and some seasalt in a food processor and grind it. Add a cup of olive oil in a thin trickle, while letting the engine run, until you have a nice green oil. Filter the parsley oil in a sieve (covered with a coffee-filter or some cheese cloth). Use the round side of a spoon to press the oil through the cloth.

Soup

Melt 25 grams of butter for the soup, with a little less than half a cup of olive oil in a wide pan on medium heat. Add 1 big Spanish onion or 4 regular white onions of medium size, coarsely chopped, and 5 cloves. Lower the heat and bake the onion in 10 minutes.

Stir every once in a while and make sure the onion doesn’t discolor. Put 1 teaspoon of sugar on the onions and add the white part of 1 fennel, coarsely chopped, 1 clove of garlic, 2 bay leaves and 2 potatoes, peeled and chopped into small dices, and bake all of it for 10 minutes. Turn the heat higher and keep stirring while adding a little over half a cup of white wine and then a little over 3 cups of vegetable stock and (almost) a cup of whipping cream. Turn down the heat as soon as the soup boils, cover it and let it boil softly for 15-20 minutes. Finish the soup by removing the cloves and bay leaves and mashing it with a hand-held blender until it’s completely smooth. Add salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg to taste.

Onion flowers

For the onion flowers, preheat the oven to 356 *F. Peel the dry scale of four small red onions carefully, make sure you don’t break the bottom, outer scale and upside of the onion. Put the onion on a cutting board (with the upside down) and cut almost entirely in helf (stop cutting at about 1 centimeter from the bottom). Cut the halves in half again and again, stop cutting before you’re at the bottom. Keep doing this, until you have 8 pieces and the bottom of the onion is still whole. Put the onions in a casserole (with the bottoms turned upwards) and sprinkle 2 tablespoons of olive oil on them. Cover with aluminium foil and grill for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and put back into the oven for 10 minutes, to make the ends of the ‘petals’ crispy.

Serve the soup in low bowls. Decorate with an onionflower and some parsley oil.

 

Are you that bighearted person, who frankly shares her story? This letter is for you

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You make the world a gentler place. Are you that person that always goes the extra mile for others? You should read this letter.

Dear big-hearted one,

You are the woman in the locker room that sighs she literally had to drag herself to the gym. You are the man who shares his sadness over his dog’s passing with a neighbor, without holding back. You are the divorced mother who, when she hears another mother say with a cracking voice ‘I’ll see you in three days, daddy will pick you up’, confides how she struggled with the same thing and that things will be better, ‘trust me’.

You’re bad at keeping a distance, and you don’t see why you should. Before you know it, a simple chat turns into a personal conversation and at the job, being businesslike isn’t your strong suit. You want to talk to someone or you don’t, but you won’t talk about the weather.

People sometimes interpret your confidentiality as exhibitionism or attention seeking. They find it inappropriate that you show yourself the way you are, even if they just got to know you. Some people feel uncomfortable with your openness; perhaps because it invites them to share something true themselves. You, kind person wearing your heart on your sleeve, look for real contact and not everyone is open to that. You have surely noticed.

Being open-hearted, without an agenda, is simply being a human being among other human beings. The word says it all: you open your heart and share something that’s true, vulnerable or comforting. It breaks barriers and shows that, under the surface, all of us are simply messing about.

I understand you, dear open-hearted one. As a writer, I am used to share things coming from a deep place. I don’t choose to do that because I think my personal story is that special, or because I’m that special, but because I know that deep down we all struggle with the same things. I want to be almost inappropriately honest, because I know that only my heart can reach the reader’s heart. When writing, I dig deep inside myself, and deeper, until I find a universal human layer. There isn’t a petty feeling of mine that isn’t recognizable to others. If readers think, after reading my articles, ‘Compared to her, I’m doing quite OK’, I’m happy.

I’m glad that you are here. There are so many people who only show their strong, cheerful and sensible side. All these shiny, impermeable outsides only bump into each other in public or keep a polite distance. By sharing your insecurities, newly found insights, little successes and failures without holding back, you make the schoolyard a better place, birthday parties and pub nights more fun. You bring a depth that’s valuable, and that can be healing, when others recognize themselves in an emotion that was hidden deeply but finally gets some room. Together with you, ally and passer-by at the same time.

Please keep making your confessions frankly, for as long and as often you want and in any place you want. Sharing ends loneliness. Sharing removes shame. Sharing makes people reconcile with their own difficult emotions, sharpens their vision and doubles joy. You make the world a gentler place.

With love and regard for who you are,

Susan

 

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Brannon Naito

 

Want to be the best version of you in 2018? This simple exercise helps

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According to meditation master davidji, we fool ourselves if we think competing with others makes us achieve more. This meditation helps you to be the best version of you, in the moment.

If you step away from all competitions, you’ll feel better and, ironically, achieve more. Another thing that gets in the way of what you want to do is thinking about all the things you ‘have to’ do. That’s why this meditation has two parts.

Step 1: Place yourself in the present moment

First, you can repeat the affirmative mantra, silently or out loud. davidji’s favorite one comes from the Bhagavad Gita. It’s called ‘Yogastha Kuru Karmani’. There are several translations, but according to davidji it means: ‘Place yourself in the present moment.’

It’s the good advice that Krishna gives the warrior Arjuna about the question: how should I act? You can repeat the mantra for half a minute or five minutes, whatever is possible at the time. It’s advisable to repeat regularly, though.

Step 2: What would the best version of me do?

For step two, you ask this question, in all openness: what would the best version of me do to achieve? Just let the answers enter your mind instead of actively come up with them – as if they spontaneously whirl into your mind.

Sometimes it takes a while, but with a little exercise, the answer will come quicklier. They can be words, images or feelings. An answer might be: ‘The best version of me is in a flow or enjoys the process.’ Or: ‘The best version of me doesn’t have to act like they’re better than someone else, she’s happy if it’s good enough.’ Or: ‘The best version of me prefers happiness over being right.’ This insight makes you the best version of you – and makes you ready for a good achievement.

Photo: Julian Santa Ana

5 exercises for a more attentive life (and they only take 20 minutes a day)

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A sizzling ray of sunlight on your skin, a laughing child, the pleasant taste of chocolate, a conversation with a loved one. Happiness is in the little things. All we have to do, is pay attention to them.

Pure, unfiltered happiness is everywhere. All we have to do is be aware of it. But that’s just it: in our busy society, it’s not as simple as it seems. Just think about it: when were you focused for hours without being distracted? You probably need a minute to think of something – if you can find an example. Attention and time are scarce these days. Smartphones and social media enable us to be in touch with others all day long. We hurry from one place to another to do all the tasks we have, but we forget to reflect on the things that really matter.  

You probably know the expression ‘Energy flows where attention goes’. Let’s focus on little moments of happiness, meaningful relationships and gratitude. It isn’t all that hard, if we spend 20 minutes a day on it. Besides: training our attention is like training our muscles. The more you do it, the better you get at guiding your mind in the right directions and positive thinking.

Awake in loving awareness (2 minutes)

Many people wake up immediately thinking of the thousand things on their to-do lists. An important meeting, the kids’ gym bags that need to be packed. Make a choice to wait a moment: don’t switch yourself on immediately, but start the day consciously. Close your eyes for a moment and focus your attention on your body. Flex and relax your muscles and take a deep breath in and out. Make sure the first thoughts of the day are positive ones. Think about the things that are going well in your life, or think about the people you love and the ways in which you are valuable to them. Hold onto this positive focus when you get up. Feel the cold floor underneath your bare feet, the taste of toothpaste and the water flowing past your body in the shower.

Go outside (5 minutes)

A green environment has a positive effect on the mind. There’s a scientific study that proves that patients heal quicker if they have a nice view on nature instead of a brick wall. Most people work in surroundings with lots of screens and buildings. That’s why it feels so good to go outside for a minute and pay attention to nature. It doesn’t have to take hours, five minutes are enough to gain fresh positive energy. A small walk in the park after lunch gives a real serotonin boost. Feel the wind in your hair, absorb the colors of the plants and flowers and listen how the birds tweet.  

Be surprised each day (1 minute)

Most of us lead a relatively predictable life. We commute between home and office, see the same people each day and if we have dinner in town, we pick a restaurant we know. That’s fine: grownups benefit from routine and regularity. However, they also benefit from surprise. Resolve to notice at least one new detail in your environment, each day. Attention for the details – like an unexpected inspiring quote on a bathroom door at the station – make us handle our environment more carefully and attentively. Besides, it triggers the child in us, that’s much better at wondering and being astonished than the grown-up mind.

Be generous with friendliness (3 minutes)

There’s more than enough bad news, criticism and complaining in the world. What if we made it a priority to give at least one compliment to a person you love a day? Or to tell a hard working colleague that they’re doing great? It would make the world a sunnier place. Turn it into a habit to take three minutes a day to focus on what people around you are doing well. Or think about at least one highlight of the day and just reflect on it.

Take the time to ‘come home’ (10 minutes)

For many of us, coming home from a busy working day means being absorbed by busy family life. There’s hardly any time to let go of the stress from the office or traffic, and thus, we tend to be cranky towards the people that are dear to us – simply because they are around us. It makes sense: our brain is more focused on negative things. Therefore, it’s a good idea to make it your mission to ‘come home’ mindfully each day. How to do that? Take a seat, and just absorb everything around you. Appreciate your own place in the world. Talk to your family members, share stories about the day or hug your pet. Allow yourself to just be, instead of doing something right away.

Text: Joanne Wienen

 

Life's not fair, but this is how you deal with that

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Bad luck and happiness are not evenly distributed among people and you’re right, that’s not fair. The Austrian philosopher Thomas Macho knows how philosophers have been looking for explanations for that fact of life for ages. He writes about it in his (German) book 'Das leben is ungerecht' (Life is unfair). 

Usually, people looked for answers outside themselves. Life wasn’t fair, and that was due to the gods, who were unpredictable and unreasonable. Life was suffering, and that had to do with the original sin, that made God expel man from paradise. Or perhaps, life was unfair, but after this life, things would be OK. Your heart would be weighed and if you had lived right, you were promised eternal bliss.

A cycle of death and rebirth is another comforting thought. Perhaps this life is unfair, but if you work hard to live as well as you can, in the next life you’ll do better.

But in the meantime, we’re in the here and now. It’s frightening to think how fate can accidentally strike. The fact that chances, talents and other gifts of nature are unevenly distributed, can make you quite unhappy. Thomas Macho doesn’t give practical advice in his book, but the art of living presents us with three strategies that may work to soothe the feeling of inequality.

1.    Stop comparing

Comparing brings unhappiness. All these people with their happy stories on Facebook and Instagram who live far happier lives than you do, may be severely unhappy – secretly. Just focus on your own situation, and make the most of it.

2.    Know that it’s not personal

We tend to say it often: ‘it’s unfair’. If you open the door and the rain starts pouring down. Or with big setbacks: ‘Why does this have to happen to me?’ But there’s nothing personal about bad luck. Listen to this touching speech by Facebook-COO Sheryl Sandberg, shortly after her husband suddenly passed away.

3.    Be grateful and accommodating

Life isn’t fair, but there’s a lot of things we can do to make things better. By helping eachother. By listening, not judging, and helping people who have had a setback. By holding on to the little things. Of course, simply being grateful for everything you have and everything that’s going well, helps too.

Text: Anne Wesseling - Photo: Riki Ramdani

This is why we should stop thinking positively

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Sure, seeing the sunny side of thing helps to put unpleasant things in perspective. But when something really bad happens, or if you’re struggling with issues that were buried deep, it only confuses us.

Positive thinking is the paddling pool of enlightenment. It works just fine to see the sunny side of things, or to pot unpleasant things in perspective, but if something really bad happens to you (or you’re struggling with issues that were buried deep), it only brings confusion. If you’re having a hard time, and having trouble to turn something that’s bothering you into something positive, you’re not ready for it. You want to be the healed, enlightened, balanced expert, when you haven’t really started to work on things. It’s like taking a shortcut that will undoubtedly lead you astray.

Chaos in your mind

Replacing something by positive thoughts will only make your mind more chaotic. From the level of thought, you can’t improve anything: it’s like adding an extra layer of shiny paint on a rotten windowsill. What we need is the courage to feel and experience. The insight that it brings you will last, transform and build up.

Severely judging your own thoughts and feelings because they’re not ‘enlightened’ or ‘spiritual’ enough, will not help you. It’s thinking about thinking. What’s really going on, is situated somewhere deeper.

Spiritual versus positive

‘Being spiritual’ is not the same thing as ‘being positive’, I often shout out. Spirituality embraces darkness and light as two forces that belong to life. There are extremely heavy situations in life, that we can call and experience as such: we don’t have to erase them with a forced positive observation. Besides, living and true spirituality also embraces your own unconscious, unexposed, undeveloped sides. The word ‘yet’ is important here: you haven’t developed them yet, and it will take time, focus and effort to transform. Positive thinking will not do the trick, no matter how well meant.

If you don’t judge your own loss of confidence, if you’re honest about it and go through it with all you have, the darkness will become a bit sunnier, the heaviness will become lighter, the emptiness will become spaciousness. If you give yourself time and simply allow painful feelings to exist, calmness will arise. Just as the feeling that ‘it’s OK’, or: ‘I am OK’. You will find that bad things will pass, or find a place inside of you, and that faith will be restored. Slowly but surely, you’ll travel to a place that you might call ‘positive’. But it won’t happen overnight.

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Kristopher Roller

 

 

This is how you make your dreams come true in 2018

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The new year lies in front of you, like a blank page. It reminds you that you can always start again, and that change is possible. January is the time of new year’s resolutions. We decide to finally stop smoking, eat healthier, finish our education this year or chase our dream job. But how do we make sure these resolutions and other desires come true? The art of manifestation might help you.

Step 1: Decide what you really desire

‘Become unapologetic about what you want’, is Gabrielle Bernstein’s advice. She’s a spiritual teacher, author and manifestation queen. The message is clear: dare to dream big, take your desires seriously and be aware that you are more than worth it to see your dreams come true.

Step 2: Create room to receive

According to the Law of Attraction, if you dream of a nice relationship, but don’t make an effort to improve your unhappy marriage (or to end it), you’re unlikely to see your dream come true. The same goes for the freelancer who keeps on doing underpaid jobs, but longs for decent payment. By stepping away from the things that no longer make you happy, you clear the way and make it possible to receive what you want the most.

Step 3: Affirm

If your wishes are clear and you’ve created room to receive, it’s time to decide your affirmations. An affirmation is a positively voiced wish you speak out or put on paper. According to experts, it’s best to put it as if it’s been already fulfilled.

Gabrielle Bernstein recommends you to put your imagination to maximal use and to keep imagining that your desire has already manifested itself. ‘Wallow in the excitement, the joy and the greatness of your dream. Be in that energy and see the specific details of the things you long for.’ That way, according to the Law of Attraction, you will send the most powerful signal to the universe, that will eventually respond. Or not, because according to the Law, in the end, the only desires that will manifest itself are the ones that are good for the bigger picture.

Step 4: Be patient and enjoy yourself

Depending on what your wish is, patience is required. Just like taking concrete steps in the right direction. Obsessively focusing on your wishes has the opposite effect, says Bernstein. It will only lower the frequency of your energy. Feeling good, even if your wish hasn’t come true yet, and joyfully seeing your dreams slowly unfold, brings them closer. If that doesn’t happen, or if things seem to keep going wrong, there’s a reason. ‘Obstacles are detours in the right direction. (…) The universe has a plan that’s better than yours.’

Text: Janita Naaijer