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POSITIVE, WISE & LOVING LIFE

Are you an introvert? That's your strength

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Bestselling author Susan Cain pays homage to the introvert. Because in a world where no one is ever silent, we need to make room for the introvert.

What makes a person introverted?

According to author Susan Cain, it’s all related to our nervous system. An introverted person is far more sensitive to (social) stimuli.

Do you feel like you’re more of an introvert than an extrovert? You probably feel a panic attack coming when you see a big crowd of people. And after a few hours partying, you probably prefer to hide under a blanket. In social situations, you often feel tired – and you recharge when you’re alone.

You perform better when there’s peace and quiet around you, because it makes you feel comfortable. That’s why, according to Susan Cain, it’s essential for all of us to create an environment that works for us – whether that’s a quiet place, or a place full of stimuli.

Extraversion as an ideal

Unfortunately, society is mostly focused on the needs of the extrovert. Cain says extroverted people are considered perfect people: ‘Charismatic, persuasive smooth talkers are often very successful in their careers, due to modern society’s values.’

It’s clear in our companies and schools – there are open bull pen offices everywhere and for young students, working in groups is obligatory. That’s a shame, because most ingenious ideas are born in isolation. ‘Being on our own is a crucial ingredient for creativity. Theodor Geissel, known as Dr Seuss, invented his amazing stories in a bell tower, and Darwin took endless walks in the woods,’ says Cain.

This is the power of introversy

Because of this lack of room to work (and think) independently, the introvert doesn’t use all of their potential. Which is a shame, because there’s a power hidden inside them.

Psychological research shows that most creative people like to be alone: they are good at sharing and developing innovative ideas and have a lot of introverted features.

But when it comes to leadership, an introvert is hardly the first choice. And that’s a pity. Because according to research, introverted people are better leaders. They are thorough, less likely to take big risks, and their results are better. Because the introvert tends to avoid the spotlights, there’s room for every employee to bring their own ideas.   

Some of the biggest world leaders were introverted: Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks and Gandhi. All three are inspiring leaders who had big impact on the world, who described themselves as timid and even shy.

Still, it's all about teamwork

Cain ends her talk with a plea for a new balance – a yin-yang division between extraversion and introversion. Because in the end, she says, it’s about teamwork. The problems we face as a society, are so immense and complex, that we need every indual (and their talents). When introverted people know they’re allowed to be who they are, a brilliant idea might just pop up – one that helps us all forward. 

 

Photo: Olly Joy

How to protect your love from everyday annoyances

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‘The space between two lovers is holy, you have to honor it,’ says relationship builder Hedy Schleifer. You can see it as a light, clean oasis, that you want to protect from the annoyances of everyday life. But the big question is: how do you keep this space pure?

Sometimes it seems as if love is withdrawing from a couple’s life. Intense infatuation has changed into a common, sustainable form of loving. It’s as if love has gone, or has dozed off, but that’s a facade.

We tend to have an unrealistic idea of love. We think of the dream couples on screen, and trust that everything will be alright in the end – as long as you holde ach other tight. But real life is different. 

Treat the space between you as a holy place

According to Israeli – American psychologist Hedy Schleifer, it’s important to draw from the love between two people. She says you have to treat eachother carefully – which is something entirely different than holding eachother tight, and suffocating one another. And she says that love is costly, and –even though it’s powerful – that it’s easily covered up by the daily pursuit.

‘The space between two lovers is holy, you have to honor it’, she says. You can keep it clean by protecting it from ‘relational pollution’: an irritated look or remark, silence, a sigh.

Even small collisions set the tone: in the space of our relation, you can make a mess. And just as people are more likely to throw their garbage on the floor in a filthy environment, we’re more likely to pollute our relational space if we don’t treat it as a holy, important place.

Try this love experiment

You can put this to the test, by reducing your polluting behaviour. This means: no useless discussions just to prove someone wrong in unimportant matters, no mumbling last words, no irritated remarks about things your lover does or doesn’t do. If something’s really bothering you, pick a quiet moment to talk about it, in a respectful, loving manner.

The positive effects

You’ll see that the effect of this ‘experiment’ is impressive. You hardly change anything, and still, you’ll notice big changes that bring cheer and relax the both of you. Even if there is tension, it’ll disappear if you respond to it in a positive way.

In the beginning, it might feel a bit artificial, but it’ll become more and more natural to treat eachother this way. You’ll find that your new attitude is contagious: after a while, your partner will stop reacting in a polluting way, too.

Oftentimes, this attitude is more powerful than ‘working on your relationship’, because this can lead to focusing on the problems – and forgetting about love.

Text: Marte Kaan - Photo: Tom the Photographer

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These are the ten life lessons you learn at the gym

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Intense physical exercise is good for your body and your soul. The gym is a source of wisdom. Ten spiritual reasons to work up a sweat.

Lesson 1: You encounter yourself

They say that working out makes you encounter yourself. What an encounter that is! At the gym and in the playing field you find out a lot about yourself. You get to know your body, you experience muscles in places you had no idea you had them, your whole body tingles and glows. You come home into your own body.

That’s why it’s easier to feel where you flex your muscles when you shouldn’t: you’re more alert to a wrong posture and you change it playfully, perhaps even without noticing.

Lesson 2: It makes you humble

Your ego tends to get bored during a workout. Because, let’s face it: most of the time, you don’t look all that good. You’re sweating, moaning, growing purple… The air streams from your inflated ego, and then it fills itself again with fresh air. You feel good, so you have a friendlier outlook on humanity. You are more sensitive to others’ needs when you’re in touch with your own body. Empathy is based on this awareness. 

Lesson 3: It makes you happier

Athletes know all about it and scientists have proven it: exercise improves your mood significantly. It releases higher amounts of the substances in the brain that make you happy, such as endorphin, dopamine and serotonine. Going for a run three times a week is as good for your soul as therapy or meditation.

Going to the gym on a regular basis can even prevent depression and burn-out: the more you exercise, the less likely you are to develop psychological complaints. Supposably, four hours of exercise a week is the perfect amount. That’s half an hour a day and one hour a week. But research also shows that the first twenty minutes of every work-out produces the highest level of happiness hormones. Even if you start off easily.

Lesson 4: You learn to love your body

If you exercise regularly, you automatically start appreciating your body more. Because it does so much for you: how could you not appreciate it? This realization makes you take better care of your body. After an intense work-out, you don’t reward yourself with some fries, but rather choose a green smoothie or a handful of nuts. Your body is your temple, and this becomes more than a phrase: you feel it in your bones. No matter how imperfect you think your body is, it deserves respect.

Lesson 5: You arrive in the now

Workout = mindfulness XL! Fresh air in your lungs, sweat on your skin, your muscles flexing, the wind in your hair: it’s all happening right here, right now. The oxygen in your brain wakes up your senses. It seems as if you see, hear, smell and feel more intensely (of course, there’s less of an effect if you’re wearing headphones outside, or looking at a tv screen at the gym). Exercise as zen as you can, empty your mind, let the wind blow away your thoughts and be as present as you can be. Feel what you’re doing, breathe consciously, stretch with 100% awareness. This moment, right now, is all you have. 

Lesson 6: It gives you energy

Sometimes, you think you’re too tired for a game of tennis or a pilates lesson – and then, if you do decide to go, you realize that the exercise activates you. ‘Had a rough night’ is a reason to hurry to the gym – not to sit on the sofa. Life is all about paradoxes, and this is one of the best ones: exercise gives you more energy than it costs you. It’s the same in spiritual life: you get what you give.

Lesson 7: Set your boundaries

It’s not until you challenge yourself physically, that you discover the boundaries of your body. You can do much more than you thought, and yet there are things you’re not capable of. Sports and work-out are constant reality checks. And being a realist makes you more self-confident.

Lesson 8: You learn to follow through

If you work out regularly, you’ll find that it’s easier to develop other good habits, such as meditating or studying. Your body leads the way for your mind. Physical exercise creates perseverance, and that brings you further in life.

Lesson 9: It makes you smarter

The gym is a source of life lessons. And you take all these insights with you in your daily life – because you feel them in your body. Your body and mind are one, what happens in your mind, translates to your soul. For instance, take running. Every gym instructor knows it’s better to take long steps than to trot.

In the end, running is something you do in the air: the ‘floating’ phase between two steps is essential. Isn’t that the same in life? There’s always a floating phase between two steps of growth, when there’s no certainty and you commit yourself to the air. Running, outside or on a treadmill, is an exercise in letting go and trusting life itself.

Lesson 10: You learn to relax

A work-out is, in fact, all about stress: your heart is beating harder, you’re moaning, your brain produces substances that also emerge when you’re in danger. But there is no real danger, so you get calm again, time and time again. This teaches your body to pacify itself, in times of mental stress as well. Exercise also makes you sleep better, research shows. But it also makes you relax on a deeper, more spiritual level. If you and your body are one, you and the universe are one too. Because if your body feels like home, the earth does, too.

Photo: Christopher Campbell

 

 

An ode to the yoni

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It’s a part of our body we don’t particularly like to talk about, and most of us seldom take a good look at: the yoni. That’s a shame, Pauline Bijster learned from several ‘yoni experts’ – because more attention for the vagina can make our body, and even life in general, lighter and more enjoyable.

What’s up with the vagina nowadays? It seems to get more attention lately, and has even been renamed: more and more often it’s called yoni, the ancient tantra-word for vagina and Sanskrit for ‘source of everything’.

In English-speaking countries, courses in Orgastic Meditation and yoni-massage studios are multiplying. Yoni eggs –little eggs made out of gems- are popular. The book ‘Pussy – A Reclamation’ emerged on top of the New York Times bestseller list.

It all starts with ‘turning on’ your own sensuality

According to the writer, Regena Thomashauer, we should all bring back the fun and power that yoni brings us into our lives. Fun, because this seems to be the only purpose of the clitoris, with its eight thousand nerve endings. But there is more. According to yoni experts, there’s a special energy that can make your body, even your entire life, lighter and more enjoyable.

It all starts, Thomashauer says, with ‘turning on’ your own sensuality. You can do this by touching the vagina, massaging it, looking at it, thinking of it.

Difficult to love

When I started writing this story, I thought I had quite a normal relationship with my vagina. To be honest, I’ve ignored it for the most part of my life. To be even more honest: I’ve dreaded it. During my periods, and giving birth to my four children, which was (apart from beautiful and moving) incredibly painful. Let alone all the times I had cystitis, yeast infections, all researched by the unpleasant speculum of the gynaecologist. Or even worse: the high amount of women –one in three, according to research- who have had unpleasant sexual experiences.

Of course, the vagina is more fun and more beautiful than this, but still, it is difficult to love. It’s hidden, we don’t think about it a lot. Or we do, but we don’t talk about it, because that’s indecent.

The right name

Our society isn’t cut out for yoni’s. All books and articles start with the compelling prove: we hardly have any names for it. All parents are lost for words for a minute when their daughter wants to know what that place between her legs is called. In fact, the vagina is only half of the organ, besides, it sounds like medical terminology – especially coming from a little girl’s mouth.

‘Cunt’ is a curse word, just like ‘muff’ or ‘cooch’. Words like ‘pussy’ have been annexed by the porno industry. Thomashauer, by the way, uses the word ‘pussy’ on purpose, because she wants it to lose it’s negative connotations.

Tantra: get to know yourself

It’s not just in the US where the yoni movement has started, it’s also in Europe. The Centrum for Tantra in Amsterdam gets more clients than ever. “Although there’s always been an interest for what we do,’ says tantra teacher Kyo Verberk. ‘People have always been interested in sex.’ As long as we keep seeing sex as something that’s purely physical, we get in trouble, she says. ‘Many people encounter problems in their relationship when they have been together for a while. Then they start looking for new things. I get that.’

The goal of tantra is: getting to know yourself. People often think it’s a sexual thing, but in its essence, it’s not, she says. ‘It’s a spiritual path that embraces all of life: also the vital sexual energy. The difference with other forms of body work is that the genitals are not excluded.’ She continues: ‘In tantra, yoni is regarded as an important source of knowledge.’

Yoni release

Mariëlle Spronck of Avalanche Bodywork introduced the word ‘yoni release’ in the Netherlands. A yoni release means that the genital area is freed of blockages from the inside. 

‘The G-spot, the A-spot and the mouth of the uterus are places where many women have blockages. We read in women’s magazines that the sandpaper-like spot near your G-spot is normal, but it isn’t. I can make that tissue soft again.’ The result: the vagina becomes more sensitive, making love feels more intense. ‘I always thought I had a great sex life,’ she says, ‘until my yoni was released. It got even better then.’

A yoni release is not a sexual or sensual thing, sometimes it's even painful. She calls it ‘shiatsu on your vagina’, and she talks about it very clearly, almost the way a physical therapist would talk about a shoulder. ‘You can learn how to do massage blockages away yourself, but there are several women who come to me three times a year, to have it released’, Spronck says. 

Focus on pleasure

Another thing that all the experts mention: we have learned to focus on a climax during sex, or on ejaculation. But that’s a one-sided approach. Marjanne Hurks is a tantra and sex coach, and gives yoni massages that are meant to be pleasant. A woman can experience what it is like to feel her vagina, without the goal of having an orgasm. We’ve forgotten how to do that, says Hurks.

It would be wise if we focused on pleasure more, without focusing on an orgasm 

She regards her work as rather sensual than sexual. ‘I think we should treat the yoni as something more holy than we do in our society,’ she says. ‘Or at least: more respectfully. My own mother called her vagina ‘that thing below’. Not much has changed since then.’

According to Hurks –and Regena Thomashauer agrees with her- it would be wise if we focused on pleasure more, on the orgastic feeling –without focusing on an orgasm itself. The stream of energy you feel in your yoni, and that fills you, the kundalini energy, that’s what’s important.

Tingly feeling

We can be all skeptical about this –and up until now, I would have been- but what if it’s true? What if the yoni is every bit as special as they say? What if it empowers us as women, makes us radiate, gives us more self confidence – as long as we’re aware of this secret, dark, damp place that’s part of our own body? 

Perhaps talking about yoni’s is already very helpful, to encounter the word ‘pussy’ 36 times a page in a book, and maybe, just maybe, you experience the same thing while reading this article: if you focus on it, you feel it.

And if you do this, you’ll notice that it feels good. Tingly. Admittedly, feeling any part of your body is tingly if you really feel it in a meditative way, but the yoni is by far the tingliest part. Feeling it makes you instantly happy.

Just by being open to it, you have access to this sparkle in your life. A moment of joy that’s ever present, simply there to enjoy, whenever you want.  

Text: Pauline Bijster [edited] 

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This is yogi Tara Stiles' perfect wake up ritual

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All it takes is a few minutes of your time: yogi Tara Stile's favorite morning ritual. It sets the tone for a beautiful day. 

The days are getting shorter, and you've probably noticed it too: it's a little harder to get out of bed. American yogi Tara Stiles found a simple, but very effective solution: an in-bed ritual. 'First thing in the morning, sit right up in bed, close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. When you notice attention's starting to wander towards the tasks of the day, simply guide attention back to your breath. Having that brief moment for yourself to connect and find ease and calm can really set the tone for the day.' 

A sense of ease and calm

Tara was one of the first yoga teachers who started to teach on YouTube. She has been into yoga from a very early age. She set a mission: to help people find ways to do yoga that are fun and accessible. For her, yoga means 'a sense of ease and calm.' 'If I feel off, I know what to do to get back. That's a huge gift that yoga has brought me.' 

The body as a road map

Yoga can teach us a lot about our body and how we're feeling, Tara says. "How we're living in our bodies is how we are in our lives. It's a sort of a road map of what's going on. If you have tight hips and shoulders, it could be you're sitting in the office for too long, but it could also be that you're closed off for certain things. If you just tell people 'open up a little bit', people come back and share these miraculous transformations. It can simply be because they're doing this practice of evening out and balances, in a compassionate way, that's not so self-critical.' 

Photo: Kinga Cichewicz

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Why there's nothing wrong with being mediocre

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If you set high standards for yourself, chances are that you'll get frustrated - just because you can't always meet those standards. Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling 'Wild', discovered that the recipe for success was simply doing her best - nothing more, nothing less. 

In Oprah’s Soul Sessions, you talk about the time when you had an opportunity to write your first novel, but instead you sat watching reality shows on TV. You mentioned the phrase “embracing your mediocrity”. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

“What I mean by that is, you should give everything you’ve got while fully embracing that everything might not end up being very great, and that your job isn’t to decide whether you’re great or not. Your job is to work really hard and do your best. And then it’s up to the world to decide what that thing was that you wrote for them. You really can’t succeed if you get too bound up in your own ideas of what your success will look like.

I found out that I was blocked because I was so wanting to write the great novel and I realized I can’t do it, I can’t sit down at my computer every day and go, ‘Okay, come on, great novel.’ All I could say to myself was: ‘Come on, let’s try to write this scene and see how it goes.’”

The result was one of the most refreshing ideas about success I’ve ever heard: yours.

“My definition of success is that you can answer yes to the question: Did I do my best? Did I give it everything I have? And if you can say yes to that, you’ve succeeded. I really sincerely believe that. It’s so contrary to so many messages we get in every area: Did you earn lots of money? Did you get an A? Did you get the promotion? Did you get your book published? Did you get the part you auditioned for? All of those standards set you up to fail. They set you up to feel terrible about yourself and to prevent you from doing your best.

What I would say is, did you give it your all? Did you give it your best shot? If you answer yes to that, in all honesty, then you did it, you hit the highest mark. This is also what helped me feel okay about the success I have. It’s a little counterintuitive, but when I had this enormous success, there was a little part of me that felt almost guilty. Like, why me?

I have all these amazing friends who are also writers, who also deserve this recognition. And they were very supportive, they said, ‘You worked so hard for this.’ I know that they work hard too, because that’s how it goes: you work very hard for years and finally this big thing happens for you. You don’t get it for free.”

Text: Geertje Couwenbergh - Image: Allef Vinicius

Curious about the rest of the Cheryl Strayed interview? You can find the rest of the interview in the new issue of Happinez, Happinez - Being in the here and now.

Three inspiring meditations to do with your child

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These meditation – and concentration exercises help you expand your consciousness. They’re very suitable to do together with your child.

Exercise 1: Look back on the day

Before your child goes to sleep, you take about ten minutes to evoke the images of the day. Mention the things he or she has done and experienced that day. Which gifts did life hand out that day? What was important, what wasn’t? It’s a good way to help your child look at themselves as if they're looking at someone else. By doing that, you help them detach from ego. This brings inner peace.

If you do this regularly, your child becomes more able to look at life with a helicopter view, from a higher ‘I’. 

Exercise 2: Creative thinking exercise

Ask your child to pick a simple object, like a pencil or a ball. Together, think about this sole object for five minutes and try to look at the object from as many angles as possible: what’s the shape, what’s the material, who invented it, can you replace it by something else?

If your child’s mind wanders, try to make it return to the object. This way, he or she exercises how to control thinking from the I-conscience and learns how to think clearly – also about more complex matters.

Exercise 3: Meditate on a seed

Put a plant seed in front of you and your child, and concentrate on the shape and colour of it. Try to imagine what plant might grow from this seed: this small seed has a hidden power, a beautiful plant! Think about this power together, and silently repeat the sentence: ‘The invisible will be visible’. Try to not just think it, but also feel it. 

 

In Iran, there's poetry in everything

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Iran is a country of poetry. Neda Kazemi – daughter of an Iranese father and a Dutch mother – knows this better than anyone. Her traveling agency Ciran organizes hiking trips and travels through Iran.

For the new issue of Happinez: 'Being in the here and now', anthropologist Neda guided journalist Marjoleine de Vos and photographer Joss de Groot on a trip through the country. Poetry was the central theme of the trip.

What do people expect when they go to Iran? Does it live up to their expectations?

People often come to Iran because they're looking for the roots of civilization. They want to see a much-discussed country with their own eyes. I think Iran makes travellers think about several things in advance: they have heard that it can be dangerous there, but also that it’s beautiful, and that people are very friendly.

Once they arrive, the country often exceeds their expectations. Most people know that Iran is the birthplace of civilization, but they had no idea that there’s so much history to be found there – that nature is so beautiful and diverse, and that people are this friendly. If you find travelling most satisfying when it surprises you, then Iran is probably the most rewarding destination on earth.

Iran has a rich tradition of poetry, with poets like Hafez and Rumi. Do you see poetry in Iran’s daily life?

Absolutely, in everything. For instance, in the language. In Iran, it’s hard to find someone giving a speech without quoting part of a poem. Most expressions are lines from poems. Everyone cites poetry – the baker, the taxi driver, the professor, everyone.

There’s a lot of poetry to be found in graveyards, too. I lost my dear sister when she was just thirteen years old. On her grave, there are two lines from a beautiful Hafez poem. When I visited Hafez’ mausoleum with Marjoleine de Vos one morning, there was a man there who immediately found the poem for me and recited it so emotionally that, of course, I cried. These rules describe my sister’s life so accurately.

Why do you think poetry is so important for Iranians?

Farsi, the Persian language, is a language made for poetry. Farsi and poetry are closely connected. And perhaps every country triggers different senses. For instance, some countries have a prominent painting tradition. In Iran, it’s mainly about poetry and philosophy. My father always used to say that in Shiraz, where two of Irans best poets come from –Hafez and Saadi- you couldn’t become anything other than a poet. The city radiates romance. In springtime, the streets smell of fresh blossom, nightingales fly through the air. The city intoxicates you.

Does poetry play an important role in your own life?

It’s always been intertwined with my life. My dad was a professor in applied arts, he knew a lot about literature. He used to sit in our garden with friends, quoting poems for hours. Sometimes there were tears in their eyes, just because of the beauty of the words. Thirteen years ago, I married Mohammed. For him, poetry is one of the reasons to live. On the invitation to our wedding there was a poem, and he always brings collections of poems when we go away for the weekend. When he was young, he had to fight, because Iran was at war. Even in this heavy period, when death was around the corner, he carried Hafez poems with him every day.

What could we learn about Iranian life?

Travelling to Iran is more than a beautiful experience, it’s enriching. The best lesson from Iranian life is probably how to live in the present. In Iran, you experience a feeling of timelessness. You realize that you’re in a place right now, that this moment is valuable, and that you wouldn’t want to miss it.

Another thing that sticks with you, is how welcoming people are in Iran. They share happiness, they share sadness, they share their homes. If I visit someone, it’s no problem if I bring ten others. It’s a spiritual country, not a materialistic one. Love and friendships are number one. 

What’s your favorite place in Iran?

That’s a difficult one, the entire country is beautiful. I’m in love with every inch of my home country. I love the mountains in Northern Teheran, where I grew up and sometimes went skiing. But Yazd is also fantastic, a mindblowing town in the desert where you can stroll through the alleys for hours. Another favorite: the currents in the mountains, with their refreshing water.

Photo: Joss de Groot

 

Why your vulnerability makes you powerful

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Powerful vulnerability is about having the courage to show who you are, to try new things and take the risk of failing. It's acknowledging that perfection doesn't exist, and that winning and losing are both part of life. 

Perhaps, when you were a kid, you believed all adults were self-confident, and that when you grew up, you would have the same confidence. I know I did. 

But as I grew older, I learned that being a grown-up means something else. It means accepting your own vulnerability, and no longer being ashamed of it. Besides, always choosing certainty and safety is dull. 

Brené Brown gave one of the most watched TEDtalks about the power of vulnerability and wrote a book of the same name. She comes clean about her own insecurities and mentions striking examples, research and observations, showing in a personal and essayistic way that vulnerability is anything but a weakness. 

I love how Brown also explains in detail how vulnerability can never be a means to ask for attention or to manipulate others. Powerful vulnerability is about the courage to show who you are, to try new things and take the risk of failure. It's acknowledging that there's no such thing as perfection, and that both winning and losing are part of life. 

Text: Susan Smit

This is what's written in the stars for you in October

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Have you been highly emotional lately? Quite possibly that’s because Jupiter (the planet that’s all about faith, hope and love) is in Scorpion this month – an extremely powerful position with a lot of potential for growth. This how to make use of it.

A month full of growth potential

Jupiter is the planet that represents happiness, and that shows a lot of growth potential. It guards the place where everything you touch can turn into solid gold. Sometimes, this is about money, but most of the time it’s about spiritual riches: the things that make us so happy, we wouldn’t trade it for the world. We’d do anything for this feeling, and it helps us to get through the biggest storms. 

From deep and heavy to pure

Scorpion is a water sign, that’s connected to our deepest and heaviest emotions. Even the emotions we prefer to hide from others, the ones we’re embarrassed of, like jealousy or possessiveness, extreme desire for power, anger and childish vindictiveness. This may sound quite negative, but there’s another side to it: like no other sign, Scorpion knows how to ‘purify’ these emotions. By experiencing them to the deepest places of the soul, in order to get rid of them forever.

You can imagine it gets very intense when these two energies meet. And this is not a matter of weeks, this position of the planet will be active for about a year.

Emotions have turbo power

How will we experience that? Well, our emotions will have turbo power. We’ll be fanatic in nearly everything, but perhaps the most in matters related to what we believe in, things close to our heart. Discussions can get out of hand, because we firmly believe we’re in the right. But we’re also able to forgive the things that were done to us when we were little. So: there’s a lot of potential to become ‘whole’. Does that mean something was broken? If you weren’t aware of that yet, Jupiter can also help you discover your traumas. 

How to make use of Jupiter in Scorpion

1.    Have faith

Funerals and births have extra meaning in this period. One minute we’re laughing, the next one we’re in tears. Decide beforehand which role suits you when your family meets to celebrate or in remembrance. Try to have faith in the higher powers that make sure ‘everything will be okay’, even if things get ‘completely out of hand’. And speak your mind, so you can help others to find their balance again. Remember: we’re on our way to become better people, no matter what.

2.    Go deep together

Intimate moments in your relationship bring fulfillment. So whenever you can, try to find the time to isolate yourselves from the weary outside world. Do this very consciously. Happiness and growth are in finding the deep, unspeakable together. Even if this is difficult sometimes. Don’t walk away, but stay, holding eachother tight.

3.    Learn and study

Jupiter also helps you to learn and study. That’s why this position of the planet is ideal for getting educated regarding psychology, regression therapy or sexuality (very much a Scorpion theme, too). If we grab this opportunity to learn, we’ll all change into wise masters, who help others get over their trauma.

4.    Let go of resentment and hate, and heal yourself

Healing trauma often entails forgiving the people who have hurt you. While Scorpion is a sign of resentment, Jupiter is the planet of forgiveness, so there’s no better time to leave your resentment and hate behind than now. Read a book about forgiveness, or go to a training.

Text: Johanna Blok - Photo: Kristopher Roller

Why regret is a good thing (even if it feels unpleasant)

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There are times in life when we do stupid things, things that we’d like to forget immediately. But it’s wise to reflect on it, and to feel regret – the price we pay for not listening to the voice inside. If you’re brave enough to let this in, you can learn from the unpleasant feeling.

From a spiritual point of view, feeling regret over your own folly isn’t very trendy. Some say it’s useless. We need to ‘let go’, and we need to do that now. Things happen just the way they should happen, c’est la vie. And while you say these words, you put on a serene smile and carry on, happily and enlightened.

You can’t fix the past

It’s no use crying over spilled milk. Absolutely true. No matter how elaborately you fantasize about other possibilities or how carefully you reproduce what went wrong, you can’t fix the past. From that point of view, yes, having regrets is pointless. But although feeling bad and endlessly going over what happened doesn’t change the past, it does have an impact on the future.

We all do stupid things

Reflecting on your actions and the consequences brings self-assessment. And self-assessment and healthy introspection help you analyze your own shortcomings and prevent yourself from behaving like a lunatic. Because you and me, sometimes we do stupid things. Has that occurred to you? We all struggle with our idiosyncrasies. Acknowledging that is the first step to change. It enables you to find out why you do the things you do, discover patterns and find out what to do about it. You can inspect your actions, regret them (or not), apologize, make amends if you can, and decide to do things differently next time.

Feelings with a message

By the way, who came up with the idea that feelings need to be of immediate use? Or that they have to be optimistic? They exist. Period. Good or bad, useful or inept – feelings find their way through you and they have a message for you: something needs attention.

Feelings have to be felt and sometimes understood. Once you manage to do that, there’s no point in letting go (actively), because they disappear all by themselves. It’s called a coping process, and it’s highly recommended.

Your inner voice

The only things you can regret, are the things you did knowingly. If you didn’t do something knowingly, you can still feel like it’s a pity it happened, but you won’t feel bad or guilty about it. Remorse is what you felt that time when you heard a voice inside telling you it would be wise to do things differently – and you didn’t. It’s the price you pay for not listening to your inner voice. And it feels really bad.

‘You’ll regret this,’ I said to my six year old daughter a while ago, when she refused to say goodbye to a friend because of something insignificant. She thought about it for a second. Then she swallowed her pride, reached out and gave her friend a hug. Because anything is better than regret. What a useful thing it is.

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Natalia Figueredo

 

 

Do it while walking - and other nimble ways to meditate

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In our fast-paced lives, finding time to meditate can be a challenge. But a quick meditation session can help a lot! Here are three nimble ways to center yourself again. 

Holy humming 

Your body will benefit from the vibration you make from this meditation. It's like the purring of a cat. Sit down, relax, breathe in, and let the sound aaaaa escape from your slightly opened lips, like a deep bass from your belly. Let it flow into a uuuuu sound coming from your chest. Finally, let a long mmmmm reverberate in your skull until the very last of your breath is gone. According to Indian tradition, aum is the oldest sound in the universe. Hum yourself into balance with this holy sound. 

Breathe in, breathe out

This is one of the shortest, simplest meditations ever: the 16-second technique devised by meditation master davidji. Breathe in through your nose while calmly counting to four in your head. Then, hold your breath for four seconds. Breathe out, again counting to four. Don't breathe for the next four seconds. That's it. You can repeat it if you have more time, but even after just one round, you can see a change already. It slows down your stress hormones, tells your body and mind to relax, and extra oxygen clears your head. 

Down to earth

Do it like the Buddha: walk while meditating. It's a way to literally come down to earth. Ideally you do it barefoot in a quiet spot, like a deserted field or a meadow. However, walking meditations can also be done on the way to the bus stop, or while lining up at the departure gate. Go as slowly as possible. Be aware of how your heel comes down first and the rest of your foot later. Notice how the other foot comes up heel first until your toes are in the air. It only takes a few minutes to feel much more grounded and to let your fluttering thoughts settle down. 

Text: Astrid Maria Boshuisen - Photography: Alan Jensen - Styling: Cyn Ferdinandus

Looking for more quick ways to incorporate meditation in your life? In the new issue of Happinez, Happinez - Being in the here and now, you can find several other meditations. 

Why you need more quiet (and how to make room for it)

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We live in a world full of noise, while all we need is silence. That’s what the Vietnamese zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh writes in his new book on silence.

Can’t we have some silence for just one moment? No. At least, not in our minds. Music, noise, talking colleagues, social media. And above all that, our own unstoppable thoughts. ‘Radio NST’, is what the Buddhist zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh calls it in his new book on silence. It means Radio Non Stop Thinking, a channel that your brain tunes in to all the time and that sends a continuous stream of thoughts through your brain (as if that weren’t enough: it’s mostly negative ones).

Is that a bad thing? Yes. All this unrest leaves no room for ‘inner silence’, the silence of not-thinking. And this inner silence is every bit as essential for your mind as sleep is for your body. ‘Without silence in yourself, and with a mind and body filled with noise, you can’t hear beauty’s call’, according to Thich Nhat Hanh. Besides, you get estranged from yourself. For instance, how can you listen to your heart, when radio NST keeps blaring? ‘Your heart calls you. Your heart tries to tell you something, but you couldn’t hear it because your head was filled with noise.’

Thundering silence

Mindfulness is Thich Nhat Hanh’s covering theme, and it’s the topic of his new book on silence. He detects that because of this persistent stream of sounds, information and thoughts, we don’t get around to just being every once in a while. The sort of being you experience during a walk outside, when you’re relaxed, breath deeply in and out and listen very carefully to all the sounds around you. That’s when you’re in ‘thundering silence’. It’s these moments when you are truly connected to the world, Thich Nhat Hanh explains. ‘You choose what you want to listen to and what you want to be. Your breathing. Rain or wind. When you’re connected to these refreshing and healing elements, you just are, and you’re not your thoughts.’

How to turn off Radio NST

You might also call it a ‘refuel’. Of course, this sounds easier than it is. You’re not the only one whose thoughts of ‘peaceful and happy’ keep being disturbed by Radio NST’s emergency signals: ‘I never have a moment to myself!’

What to do? Intervene, because silence doesn’t come magically. It helps to just temper the external noise, by shutting off the radio and the television for an hour and hiding the smartphone in the laundry basket. But how to find inner silence?

It’s a matter of practice, according to Thich Nhat Hanh. Not-thinking is an art, that, just like other art forms, needs patience and practice. And just like other skills, it doesn’t require hours of practice in a row, as long as you do it every day. For instance, like this:

1.   Meditate, by sitting peacefully for a few minutes (preferably in silence) and focusing on your breath.

2.   Make sure that you’re early for every appointment, and focus on the environment for half a minute: the surroundings, the sounds, what you see, what it feels like to be there.

3.   Do something with your hands, like a job around the house, make music, or do something else that makes you forget everything around you.

After all, making your thoughts stop isn’t all that hard. Ten or twenty seconds a time is fine. If you can pause a few times during every busy day, it makes a lot of difference. It’s times like these when radio NST is shut off. And then you find it: an oasis of quiet, in a world filled with noise.

Want to read more?

Thich Nhat Hanh, ‘Silence – The Power of Quiet in a World full of Noise’.

Text: Anne Wesseling - Photo: Ariel Lustre

 

Why riding a bike is good for your soul

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Biking isn’t just a healthy, sustainable and very affordable way to get around. It’s also a spiritual exercise.  

The perfect pace for the soul

According to an old saying, the soul travels on horseback. This means the human spirit doesn’t respond well to quick movement. Sure, your body can be racing on the high way at maximum speed, but your soul follows at walking pace or at a gallop. That’s why a holiday by bike is so pleasant: the pace is high enough for you to see the landscapes change around you, but you’re going slowly enough to experience every bird of prey and every acre around you.

Let the wind guide you

How do you handle headwind? This is, of course, a very spiritual question. No doubt, pedaling against a strong southwester is a tough thing to do and it builds character. However, the ‘go with the flow’ approach is a lot more pleasant. Let the wind guide you during your bike ride. You can catch the train on your way back at the end of the day (or after a weekend trip by bike).

Stop for a second

Biking can be a mindfulness exercise.  Why would you rush to reach the traffic light before they turn red, when it’s the perfect opportunity to stop for a second, take a breath, be aware of your body for a moment? There’s no rush. 

Photo: Alex Vans Colina

This is the perfect soup for when the leaves have fallen

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Warm, fragrant, hearty: the oldest dish in the world will lighten your mood with every spoonful. This roasted carrot soup combines healthy with extremely tasty.  

Roasted carrot soup with lemon 

Serves four

Preheat the oven at 175 °C.
Peel 750 grams of carrot and cut it into big chunks. 
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a soup pan. 
Add the carrots and fry at medium heat for 5 minutes. 
Put all of it in an oven dish. 

Add 2 cloves of garlic in slices, the zest and juice of 1 lime and  ½ tablespoon of cumin seed. 
Cover with aluminium foil and put in the oven for 40 minutes. 

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the soup pan. Fry 1 frittered onion on a low heat. Add 150 grams of red lentils,  ½ tablespoon of ras-el-hanout (Moroccan herb mix), 2 leaves of laurel and 6 dl of vegetable stock and bring to a boil. 
Let the soup simmer for 25 minutes. Add the carrot to the lentils, remove the laurel leaves (!) and mash the soup. 

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of coarsely chopped fresh cilantro. Cut 2 limes in wedges. Serve the soup with the lime wedges, to squeeze out the juice to taste. 
Tasty with some warm Arabic flatbread. 

Variation: for a burgoo, add a can of chick peas when the soup is ready. Add some grinded pepper to taste. 

Photo: Felix Russell-Saw

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5 ways to let your child connect to their body

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The body is an important instrument. It tells us how we’re really doing. Nevertheless, we teach our children to solve problems with their minds from an early age. Good news: it’s not difficult to reconnect to the wisdom of the belly.

It's cool to be bored

Make sure there are times when you don’t do anything. Is your child complaining about being bored? Praise them: keep it up! Boredom is the soil for new things. 

Breathe consciously

Your breath is your vitality – it connects you to the cosmos’ life energy. By teaching kids to breathe consciously, you teach them to pacify their own body and mind. Most people, kids too, have a high breath. Breathing from the stomach makes the body softer and more relaxed. A good exercise to do together: put your hands on your belly and try to expand it while breathing in. You can do this lying down with a small stone on your belly: notice how the stone goes up and down. Do this for a while and notice the difference.

To poop is to let go

You might think pooping is an active thing to do, but it’s the opposite: it’s about relaxing and letting go what you no longer need. Not doing something, but letting it happen. If your child has a lot of stool, or thin stool, he or she might be afraid of something. Children often have diarrhea when they have a test, or before they go on a camp. If they have trouble defecating, they probably have trouble letting go. Learning to relax can be helpful.

Guarding boundaries

It’s wise to teach young children that it’s okay to say ‘no’. Saying no is taking care of yourself.

The pause button

Everyone snaps every once in a while. Teach your kids that they have a ‘pause button’ that they can press when times get hard. Do they get to a point where they feel: I’m getting angry, sad or tense? Put your hand on your pause button. Everyone has a button, but we all have it in different places: it can be in your belly, in your heart or between your eyes.

Once you push the button, you reach the point where you stop. Breathe three times, and once you’ve breathed out, decide what to do or say. This is the way you learn not to react in a rush, but to make some space for what you feel inside.

Photo: Andrik Langfield Petrides

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Stop searching, and you'll find yourself

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The search for rest can be very intense. And there are many solutions, but they're often not too effective - and always temporary. However, there is one solution that works. And once you find it, you're home.

Everyone is searching for something. You. Me. Your neighbor. The bus driver. That ever-smiling celebrity. People search in different ways, but they all have the same goal: getting rid of unrest. Even people who thrive on adrenaline, do this to get rid of unease. 

Many forms 

Unrest comes in many forms. We experience it as pure emptiness, self-hatred, ambition, the tendency to please, an ever existing fear or chronic anger. We experience it as embarrassment, gloom or stress. Sometimes one form bothers us, but often there are several asking for our attention and making our lives complicated. Something inside of us is screaming for release. As if we're in a dark cave with thousands of panicking bats. It itches, it hurts, and the search for rest hardly ever loses intensity. Luckily, there are several solutions.

Distractions

To get rid of the feeling, we try almost everything. We drink and smoke, work too hard, have trouble leaving our phones behind, have sex with people we’ve only just met. All these things are distractions, ways to shake off the ominous feeling we can’t seem to place. Sometimes we use tough stuff, sometimes we pick a solution that whispers and caresses, or we lose ourself in meditation or another spiritual activity. But always from this gnawing hunger for rest.

The problem is: all we ever do and experience, is temporary. So all these so-called solutions may have a magical effect, but it only lasts for a while. What’s more, is that they often contribute to new unrest, because we get embarrassed of our behavior and our feeling of unworthiness, and because a complete feeling of failure and disappointment keeps provoking us. Because the pain grows.

External fix 

Just like so many people, I’ve been trying to find rest outside myself for years. I've looked for it in drugs and working hard, in shallow sexual relationships and buying shiny, expensive stuff I didn’t need, and also in several therapists, healers and specialists. I hoped that something that manifested itself inside of me, could be fixed for good by something external. Of course it didn’t work – not then, not now.

The solution 

But there is a solution. A very simple, very pure one. And that solution is the insight that you don’t need anything, don’t have to change, and that during every time in your life, you are exactly the person you need to be.  It’s waking up from a humid dream that always got you sleepwalking from solution to solution, it’s a homecoming that’s surprisingly unspectacular – but completely liberating.

You’ll find that place by being aware of your unrest’s coming and going. Without wanting to get rid of it, but by simply experiencing it. You’ll return to it by living with genuine attention for all your confusing ideas, your fears and your doubts.

Witness

You’ll learn to live effortlessly, and to rest, by realizing that everything you ever thought you needed, was volatile and unreliable. And you’ll feel it by realizing you’ve always been the witness of your thoughts – but never the thoughts themselves.

You have all these –horrible and beautiful – experiences, but it’s not like you are them. You are the only thing that was always there, and you welcome everything you experience – undamaged and unprejudiced.

Home 

Being at peace with who and what you are is not difficult, it’s not an effort. You don’t have to work hard for it, don’t have to struggle for it, you don’t have to go to a foreign country for it. It doesn’t require extra knowledge, exercises or tricks. It doesn’t require accepting. It’s just that one experience that makes it crystal clear to you that whatever you thought about yourself, never had anything to do with who you really are. And it’s that moment when you step out of the fear, out of the powerlessness and the self-criticism, and you’re home.

As soon as it happens, you’ll know. And it will never really leave you again.

Text: Marnix Pauwels

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Single? You'll never learn more than during this time of your life

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The desire for love can be so strong that it seems to overshadow everything else. Why is it so hard to be single? How can we get rid of the feeling that we’re in a waiting room, and start making use of our time ‘alone’?

Hunger for love is the deepest, most powerful hunger. Once there is food in your stomach and a roof over your head, you want someone in your life who cares about you. Who’s there for you, for whom you’re special – and will remain special. The desire for a partner can be heavy and overpowering. We keep searching, until we fall in love. After a while, it turns out he or she isn’t the one and we’re alone again – or at least, that’s what it feels like.

Status: single

Friends and family who are there for us, can’t take away our feeling of loneliness, no matter how sweet, thoughtful and compassionate they are. A while after the breakup, we start looking again. We look even more carefully, schedule dates, get more agitated and more desperate. Why don’t we succeed? Why do other people have lovers, and not us? What if we’ll be alone for the rest of our lives…

We register on dating sites, have friends hook us up with their friends and go on holidays for singles. We make tons of plans for the weekend, to make sure we don’t have to sit in front of the telly on our own. Relationship ‘single’ is seen as something unwanted - and very temporary.

Why are we so afraid to be alone?

Why are we so afraid to be alone? Carolien Roodvoets, relational therapist and writer: ‘For many singles, being alone feels like a disgrace. They feel as if, despite their interesting job, big circle of friends and interesting hobbies, they’re ‘failing’ at life. It’s not something that’s easily discussed, because there is a lot of shame in it. Besides, there’s an intense, powerful desire to share life with a partner. The desire to have everyday intimacy and to grow old together makes people gloomy, because fulfillment sometimes seems so far away – even unattainable. If this desire gets frustrated for a long time, that’s a difficult thing to bear.’

Acting like a ‘happy single’

If you believe that ‘what’s happening right now is exactly what needs to happen in order to learn’, you’ll probably feel a lot more relaxed. From this starting point, you make choices in love that are more pure, and, ironically, you’re more attractive to possible love interests. This doesn’t mean that you have to ignore your love hunger and act like a ‘happy single’ if you don’t feel like one. The desire for a partner is human, there’s nothing wrong with it.

Being single is not queue time

The trick is not to look at the single times in your life like some sort of second-rate ‘queue time’, but as a fruitful and valuable period. Duindam says: ‘Make it quality time. How to do that? By being attentive. Compare it to waiting for a friend in a café. You candrum on the table, check your watch and feel frustrated. But you can also decide to be in that café fully aware, look thoughtfully at the prune trees in bloom and let your mind go blank for a while.’

What being on your own can teach you

Being on your own can teach us things. It’s an opportunity to grow, just like every relationship is. Being single is a way to learn to know yourself better. You don’t have to focus on a partner, so all your attention is for you. This can be confronting: old pain comes to the surface, there are projections, memories, unrealizable desires that impose themselves upon you. You might encounter your own history. And if you don’t push this away, it might give you a clear image of your family situation during your youth and how this affects your choice of partner. You can come to terms with the pain that loved ones have caused you – and the pain you’ve caused others. You can stop playing the victim and forgive others and yourself. In other words: face your personal demons.

You can’t find true love if you don’t know who you are

Swiss psychologist Mira Kirshenbaum writes that being on your own for a while, and being introspective, is the best way to learn to love again. In her book ‘Women and love’ she writes: ‘You can’t find true love before you’ve found the real ‘you’. The more you find out about yourself, the more likely you are to find the one.’

People who feel calm and joyful on their own, tend to have more realistic expectations of romantic love. The thought of ‘make me happy, make me complete, tell me who I am’ has disappeared to the background. You no longer put future lovers in charge of compensating your shortcomings and flaws. From the Buddhist point of view, a love relationship is a sadhana: not primarily a situation that makes you happy, but a situation in which you’re able to grow. This growth is what will make you happy.  

Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Éva Balogh

All about auras: do we all have one, and can we see it?

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A colourful layer of light around us: that's the aura. But does it exist, and what is it? Are we able to see it? Journalist Lisette Thooft looks into the fascinating phenomenon and comes to a remarkable conclusion. 

Of course we have an aura

Everybody has one. Sometimes you can see someones aura, even if you’re not an aura reader. It doesn’t mean that you see a colourful cloud around people, like in an aura photo. But you feel your friend is down, even if she tries to hide it. Or you just know that there’s anger around your partner, even if you can only see his back. Or you approach a spiritual person and experience the peace and serenity they radiate. There is something we can’t really describe, something that is called aura in spiritual circles.

It’s been there for ages

Many ancient traditions and philosophies make mention of the layer of light around us. Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism all state that, apart from a ‘normal’ body, we all have an energetic body, invisible for the non-spiritual eye. The Buddhist flag contains the colors that, according to rumour, were visible in Buddha’s aura when he was enlightened. In old paintings, the main Christian figures – Jesus, Mary, the saints – were surrounded by an aureole or at least a halo, a circle of light above their heads.

What’s a ‘good’ aura?

In anthroposophy, there are four body layers. The ether body supplies the physical body with spirit and growth. In the astral body, your feelings, preferences and aversions emerge. The spirit body organizes your ego – it’s home to your self awareness, it enables you to use words and to eflect on yourself. 

In new age, aura is a common concept. It has up to seven layers and sticks out at least 30 centimeters on all sides of your body. The better these layers are adjusted to one another, the happier and healthier you are. With some practice, you can enlarge or reduce your aura.

You can also cleanse your aura, for instance by stroking your body from head to toe, as if you’re removing imaginary fluff and creases from a wide coat. Or by visualizing lightening up your aura in bright colors. A lengthy walk on the beach blows your aura clean. You can feel it.

How to read auras

Is it possible for people to see auras? To predict which sicknesses are coming up, to perceive hidden feelings or to tell you what your true mission in life is? Aura readers and many of their clients say so. But the question is whether you can speak of 'seeing'. Because our auras don’t consist of natural light.

What about aura photography, then? You pose in front of a camera with your hand on a sensitive sheet, and a minute later you see your picture surrounded by clouds of colour, on a real photograph that you can take home with you.

According to the inventor of the aura camera, Guy Coggins, these colors are projected by a computer program. The machine uses a galvanometer (comparable to a lie detector) to measure something in your hand, and translates this to color.

What it is the computer measures, and how this translation to color takes place? Coggins says the meter measures electrical vibrations in the acupuncture points in your hand. With the help of experienced aura readers, Coggins has translated these vibrations to colors and made a program of it. An aura photographer told me: the higher the frequency of your vibrations, the lighter the colors.

Someone else said: it depends on the spot in the picture. But all aura readers agree that only good aura readers are able to interpret the colors. Red symbolizes anger for person A, but passion or sensuality for person B. Green stands for healing, but also for jealousy or the love of nature. Yellow is intellect, or cheer. Etcetera.

But if colors can have so many meanings, how come so many people have their aura read and are impressed by the results? Apparently, the best aura readers are sensitive enough to observe what’s going on inside our minds. But whether this relates to the colors, or whether they find this information another way, is no foregone conclusion.

Science and the aura

There have been some scientific tests with aura readers, but all of them are disappointing. In one experiment there were four screens in a room, a man sat behind one of them– close to the rim, so that his aura would have to stick out past the screen. The (renowned) aura readers were asked behind which screen the man was sitting – they didn’t score higher than 26 percent.

Nonetheless, according to other tests, the light that people radiate is measurable. This light supposably comes from photons, a very weak radiation that forms the shape of a person if you amplify it a million times – the strongest around the head. Every test person that was photographed shows the same pattern, but the intensity of the light differs.

Is this the aura? Hm. A remarkable result of the research was that experienced meditators radiate less light than people who aren’t spiritual. And when a test person started meditating, his radiation weakened. As if normal people let the light ‘leak out’ and people who meditate keep it ‘in’.

Do we need hard evidence?

Strong, hard evidence for the existence of the aura doesn’t exist. But do we really need it? Perhaps the light of auras just isn’t visible or natural. Perhaps there are two kinds of light – an ‘invisible’ spiritual light, and the regular daylight that we’re able to see? If you’re sensitive to the wisdom of myths, this suggestion might appeal to you. Because in the first book of the Bible, Genesis 1, the Creator exclaims: ‘Let there be light!’, and there was light. This is while He didn’t create the sun, moon and stars until the fourth day. Sunlight is what makes us able to see eachother, with our normal eyes. And perhaps all this information we mysteriously get about eachother, comes from that other light, the light that existed before the universe – the spiritual light that permeates everything, even the deepest darkness.

Text: Lisette Thooft

 

Trouble waking up? Find the morning person in you

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Switch to 'positive mode' before you get up, and the new day feels a lot lighter. How to do that? Find the morning ritual that works for you. 

There are days when you don’t have to make any effort for it. You wake up feeling great, well rested, ready for a new day. And then there are days when the alarm clock rings far too early and you jump out of bed tight as a drum. OK, it happens, such is life sometimes. But a ‘false start’ like this affects your entire day. That is why it’s a good idea to create your own morning ritual, a way to make getting up as pleasant as possible. It might not be feasible every day, but if you have a ritual that works for you, it gives you something to hold onto. Perhaps you’ll need to set the clock a little earlier, but it’s worth your while – trust us.

Tip 1: Good preparation 

A good start of the day starts the night before. It’s wise to shut off the television or the computer some time before you go to sleep; the bright lights of the screen disrupt the production of melatonine, the ‘sleeping hormone’. The best time to go to bed, is when you feel that you’re tired enough to fall asleep (which isn’t necessarily when the film ends!).

Tip 2: Waking up to daylight

Some say the same goes for getting up: the best time is when you’ve just waken up naturally (unless that is at 2 AM, of course). The time depends on your week routine and your commitments, but waking up with nature has its advantages. According to the ancient Indian medicine system Ayurveda, the lively vata energy is at its highest during the hours before sunrise. By getting up at that time, you can use the energy.

Don’t like the sound of your alarm clock? You can teach yourself to wake up without a clock. Just before bed time, resolve to wake up at a certain time – it’s easiest to use the same time for a while, even if you don’t necessarily have to get up at that time every day. To be sure, you can set your alarm fifteen minutes after that time (for the time being). Whatever you do, don’t use the snooze button. The restless catnaps in between beeps usually does more harm than good.

Tip 3: Relax

Starting the day as soon as you’re awake is the motto – but do it the relaxed way. It helps to be in a comfortable environment, if the first thing you see in the morning is a beautiful bouquet of flowers, a picture of a loved one or an inspiring painting. Perhaps you love waking up to music, or you like to listen to the twittering and singing of birds.  You can do a couple of simple stretches to warm up your body in a gentle way - while you're still in bed

Tip 4: Meditate for a few minutes

The peace and quiet of the morning is a good time for meditation. Together with your body, your mind wakes up. Our thinking machine gets into worrying mode quickly: what’s on the programme for today? Meditating keeps your mind calm and balanced. It doesn’t have to take long, a couple of minutes make a big difference.

This, too, is possible in bed. Focus on what you want to achieve or experience today: love, harmony, rest, decisiveness, energy, cooperation. Think happy thoughts! By meditating, your body produces endorphins, and that’s exactly what we’re looking for: happy hormones.

Tip 5: Hugging and moving 

Another way of getting your body to produce endorphins is physical exercise (and touching: giving your lover a big morning hug is not a bad idea at all).

According to Ayurveda, kapha’s energy takes over as soon as it’s light outside. Among other things, kapha is about using your muscles, so in the East, the morning is seen as the perfect time of day to exercise.

Tip 6: Clean and content

After that, it’s time for cleansing. Brush your teeth, have a nice shower or a bath. An ayurvedic custom is to rinse your mouth with some olive oil or sesame oil for two or three minutes (don’t swallow, spit it out afterwards), to strengthen your teeth.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, you can give your digestion a boost by drinking a glass of lukewarm water before breakfast, preferably with a little lemon juice. Between seven and nine, your stomach has its peak moment of the day – it’s the ultimate time for a healthy breakfast. Important: take your time, don’t gobble your food standing at the kitchen counter. Sit at the table to eat and do it mindfully.

Photo: Guillaume Bolduc