Dear self-improver,

You loathe the phrase ‘That’s just how I am’, coming from people who think you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Because, in your opinion, you can: it’s possible to grow, heal, transform! From your point of view, change isn’t just useful and advantageous, it might be the whole reason of your existence.

The idea that you can stretch yourself as a person, until you reach the highest places, is the core business of the industry of self-help books, personal coaches and workshop teachers. I, too, spent years stressing important quotes in books titled ‘The 10 ways to find happiness’ and ‘Zen in five steps’ and analyzing my awkward habits in diaries. Self-improvement is my middle name, but as I get older, it becomes clearer to me that it’s an illusion to leave all your ingrained reflexes behind you.

The thought of being able to outsmart your limiting patterns using the right strategies and tricks, is exciting. You think you’ll be reinventing yourself for the rest of your life, but maybe you just keep fighting your demons – just in different ways. That’s the thought I ask you to consider, dear self-improver: even if we’re willing to learn, we can never really get rid of structural pitfalls and convictions. Probably, the best we can do is teach ourselves how to fight them the most efficiently every day.

I don’t want to downplay this fight. It’s useful, it can help you to improve your life, to make the difference between feeling good or worthless. But it’s not a finish line, you’ll always be travelling. If you developed a negative image of men when you were young, you will always need to correct yourself when you meet a new guy. You’ll always have to be alert and ask yourself: is my judgement just? Or is this an old mechanism I’m following?

It takes time and perseverance to keep making choices about what’s true, what’s useful to you and the world, what’s about love and what isn’t. You can’t throw away patterns you’ve adopted at a young age: they’ll always be there waiting for you when you’re going through a rough patch and feeling less energetic – they’ll invite you to get into your old groove. And it’s not a disaster if it happens. It doesn’t mean it was all for nothing, and you’ll have to start afresh. A setback is perfectly normal. Don’t judge yourself for it, don’t think of it as a weakness. It’s just how you’ve been programmed.

You see what went wrong and you’ll do better next time. That’s all you can do, dear self-improver, it’s good enough. Self-improvement doesn’t have to be self-torture. In your effort to become a better version of you, let go of the self-hatred and think of your endeavours with kindness and a realistic view. You’re doing your best. And that’s great.

With appreciation and respect for how you’re shaping yourself and your life,

Susan Smit

When we talk about self-care and self-love, we usually talk about the things you do at home, alone. Meditating, taking a bath, keeping a diary. But there’s no need to stay in when you want to treat yourself well. Five great reasons to take yourself on a date:

1 Time and space to think

If you have to make a difficult decision, you’re considering to take a new step in your career or there’s something else you’re worrying about, it’s usually a good idea to step outside your safe space. Going out makes it easier to gain a new perspective. And even though it can be helpful to hear other people’s opinions, they can also make you doubtful. Without the white noise of others’ opinions, it’s easier to discover what it is you really want.

2 It makes you see through you

What do you choose to do if you don’t have to consider what someone else wants? Oftentimes we’re so occupied with what the world expects of us, we lose sight of what is important to us. A date with yourself brings new insight and makes it easier to listen to your inner voice.

3 It’ll boost your confidence

The first time you go to a restaurant or cinema can feel a bit awkward. But why would you have to take someone with you? Who says a date has to be for two? Dating yourself means stepping outside your comfort zone. You’ll find you’ll survive – and probably even enjoy it. Especially if it feels scary, going out by yourself will boost your confidence.

4 No need to compromise

You can do whatever you want. Finally visit that lunch room you’ve passed by dozens of times, or wander through the book store for hours without anyone sighing impatiently. This is your chance.

5 No one to entertain

Don’t feel like talking? Bit grumpy? Not a problem. A good mood is optional: during a date with you, you only have yourself to entertain.

Scary?

Is the thought of having dinner or visiting a theater show a bit intimidating? You can define what ‘date’ means. It’s about allowing yourself uncompromised me-time. If you want, you can take the first step inside your comfort zone: a night on the couch with a great book, or a long walk through the woods is a fine way to spend valuable time with yourself.

By Sanne Eva Dijkstra 

Dancing with the leaves: a Taiwanese tea ritual has several poetic names. It’s artisanal, extensive and refined.

Curious about how it works? This video shows a Taiwanese tea ceremony:

As a street artist, he had a spiritual experience that changed his life for good. Nowadays, the warm-hearted dreadlocked guru spreads his word from an estate in the South of Portugal. His message is simple: find out who you are. 

Happiness is our natural state

‘Do you know that you can be happy always?’ That’s how Mooji starts his satsang. This happiness is not to be found by looking for happiness, but by realizing that it’s our natural state. In this video, the advaita master explains how it works.