Sunday, 3 December 2017

Season of Giving

In the last few days I've been thinking a lot about this phrase ''season of giving.'' We often refer to this time of year in December before and around Christmas and New Year (or Saint Nicholas here in the Netherlands where I live) as the season of giving. And while so much meaning is contained in the word giving we often reduce it to mean exchange of presents. Of course nothing is wrong with giving a present to another person, on the contrary it could be such an act of joy and pleasure for both the giver and the receiver. 
What bothers me about reducing of the word giving to mere exchange of presents is the fact that very often we buy presents for the sake of buying them, because it is Christmas and we are supposed to give a present to, for example, our brother-in-love, whom we actually do not even know that well. Apart from the fact that he plays golf and likes his garden we do not really know who he actually is, what he likes and dislikes. So we play it safe and once again, for the fifth year in a row, we buy him a book. The only variation is in the subject, last year it was a book about gardening and this year it is a humorous one about golf and golfers. He, in exchange, is giving you yet another book on vegetarian cooking, although this time it is ''Mediterranean Vegetarian Dishes'' as oppose to ''Indian Vegetarian Cooking'' the one he gave you last year. A lovely book, and, yes I acknowledge, he tried to match the subject to at least something he know about you for sure, the fact that you area vegetarian. OK, I recognize that he tried his best, given your level of closeness, but what have you really shared? Has this exchange of 'polite' presents brought you any closer or has it actually contributed to keeping you at a safe distance ensuring that you relate only through easy understandable labels such as gardener, golfer, vegetarian that you innocently have attached to each other?

What I am missing in this massive buying, spending and presents exchange exercise that all of us in our Western societies engage in during this ''season of giving'' is true deeper sharing, giving from the heart, be it a kind word, a smile, forgiveness or just a place in a queue to a total stranger.
Hence, what I really miss and would like to see more of is: giving a bit more of ourselves, giving as sharing, giving without expecting anything in return and giving not just to those that we know and are close to us, but also to those we do not know, even if it is just a kind smile of acknowledgement. In a way, what I would like to see is that we spend less time frantically running about spending more money, to get more things, to fill more space around us, all in hope that it would make us happier and more satisfied. Rather, I would like all of us to give more of our time, our thoughts and our heart to each other.

It seems that we are mistaking our needs for sharing, connection, caring and love with our strategy of giving material things to each other. As if giving you more material stuff would give you more love and care. How much love and caring is a new huge LCD screen or the latest iPhone worth? Will that new iPhone really contribute to our connecting with each other on a deeper level, giving each other the gift of our shared humanity? Or shall we use it as a gadget which enables us to have ever faster speed of connectivity without much to say to or share with each other?

Would you be able to see it as a gift if I open my heart and told you that in this season of giving all I have to give is my vulnerability? Would you be able to hear my sharing, my need to be seen and heard without hearing a criticism of you? Would you be able receive my sharing as a true gift, or would it come to you as a burden and demand on your already too tight schedule and life?

I hope that in this season of giving we all stop for a moment and we connect with our own heart and ask ourselves: what is it that I wish to share with those dear to me? What is the most precious gift I can give them? And then, do not stop there, also ask ourselves: 'what is that friend wishing to give me?' Have I received a present, but missed the gift that she is giving me through it? How can I ensure that receiving is already in the joy of giving? And how can I when receiving recognize the intention of the giver and with it double the joy for both of us?
And of course before asking any of those questions, maybe we all can stop and ask ourselves what that most precious gift is that I wish to give to myself.  Is it a bit more kindness, a bit more love, or is it just time to chill? My very close friends  is ''dreaming of being able to just sit down and watch a Xmas movie while drinking tea, and there is nowhere to rush, and there is no one (read: the children 😉'' she wrote) ''to ask me for something, rather i just doze off and by the time I wake up the movie is over 😂.''

Maybe you can find your simple version of kindness and giving both to yourself and others. And if you have trouble finding those little ideas of kindness then have a look at the Kindness Calendar above or at the for inspiration. 

I wish you all happy giving and receiving season!

P.S. I also wish to express my gratitude to the Action for Happiness  for this very inventive idea and a gift of Kindness Calendar.
If you like this article, please share it with whomever you think can enjoy or benefit from it. And please make a comment or let me know what is the best gift you would like to give or receive.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Opening up our horizons through travelling

Most of us have heard a phrase that ''travelling opens up our horizons.'' I have heard it often enough and believed it to be true. Somehow it always made sense to me. Of course, you travel to different places and cultures, meet people with customs different from those of your own culture and inevitably that has to open you up, it has to increase your level of tolerance for difference. Well, sometimes it is true, and sometimes not. Also, for some people it is true and for some not. What I've realised in the last few days is that until now I've always understood the above phrase to mean a process of external opening, but what became very clear to me while travelling in India is that external opening is only one and maybe even smaller part of the 'horizons opening process.' Another component of this 'horizon opening process' is opening up of our inner horizons. When we travel in cultures that are substantially very different from our own culture we inevitably are faced with a need to travel through uncharted and often hidden territories of our own comfort zones. It is at this point when travelling starts to challenge our comfort zones that we have a chance to go on the inner journey to places in ourselves where we are stuck, where anxiety and fear reside. These are the moments when we have a chance to acknowledge our anxiety and discomfort, to choose “to feel the fear and do it anyway” and if we do, chances are that after initial discomfort we shall open up to experience our own humanity, which inevitably will make us much less stuck up, more able to laugh at ourselves and ultimately more humble.

Let me use a recent example to illustrate what I am trying to convey, above, about opening our horizons through meeting our comfort zones while travelling. Two weeks ago Jerry, my partner, and I were due to travel from Cochin in the coastal area of central Kerala, to Kumily, in the beautiful, hilly, nature protected area of the Western Ghats. We knew that the only way to get there was by road and our guide book informed us that there were regular buses going to Kumily or Thekkady. So off we went to the main bus station to enquire about possibilities. In our minds we were set on a private air-conditioned minibus, which normally cost 3 times more than the state buses, but still we were quite happy to pay for the comfort and what we expected to be a safer option.

Well, we were in for a surprise, there were no private buses going from Cochin to Kumily; only state-ran buses. There were taxis to be hired, but they cost 10 times more than the state buses. Since we decided we were travelling through India on a budget, we were not prepared to pay such a price. So there we were: our only option being a state bus for which you could not buy a reservation; just show up on the day and hope for the best. There were a few different buses parked at the bus station. Some of them were looking relatively new and modern. Hence, with a high dose of positivism, I asked the information officer to point out to me the type of bus that goes to Kumily, hoping he would point to a nice newish looking Volvo-cum-A/C orange bus. Instead, he pointed to what once was a white and blue bus, looking very old and battered, with no windows or, rather, open windows with no glass in them.

Our bus to Thekkady/Kumily

An unorthodox way of securing the door

I looked at Jerry and saw a mixture of what I would describe as a sinking feeling, together with disbelief on his face. Before I could even say anything, he stated with determination in his voice that he was not going to travel on this bus, especially not for 5 hours, which was meant to be the duration of this trip. Trying to stay positive and humorous I pointed out that at least air-conditioning would not be a problem: there would be a full draft blowing through those windows. Jerry saw no humour in my remarks. His comfort zones were challenged and his body language, as well as his feelings, were screaming in resistance Jerry expressed that the poor condition of the buses, not knowing whether we would have a seat or be left standing squeezed by every commuter in the area, as well as the speedy driving of the Indian bus drivers were not contributing to his needs for safety, comfort and ease (He later pointed out to me that it was also a case of “seen it, done it, got the T-shirt and feel no need to do it again”.) I was trying to hear him emphatically while my own imagination was running mad. Realising that it was a village to village commuter kind of bus I was getting very concerned about the duration of the trip. I was not reassured that the bus would be making many break-stops and therefore not leaving enough opportunity for toilet stops. This was a real concern for me because in this climate I need to hydrate a lot, which means regular loo stops. We both felt rather gloomy and decided to look for other options on the internet that might better meet our needs for safety, comfort and ease.

The only other option was to go on the train further south to Kottayam, which would have taken one hour. From there, we would be able to take an A/C bus to Kumily, but there was only one A/C bus leaving at 5 PM, with a journey time of some 4 hours to get there, which meant that the most of our trip would be done in the dark. OK; this was an alternative, but still with all the changes and travelling by different means of transport it was not going to contribute much to our need for ease. At the same time, driving in the night was definitely not giving me confidence and not contributing to my need for safety. So here we were, looking at two options, neither one fully meeting our needs. Of course, there was a third option: succumb to our fears and choose to avoid them by not going to Kumily at all. That strategy would have maybe met our needs for safety, comfort and ease but it would certainly not have contributed to our needs for adventure, playfulness, exploration and very importantly for self-respect. So we sat with all our feelings of discomfort and fear being quite prominent on the one side, and excitement and curiosity on the other, as well as the whole spectrum of our needs. Ultimately we decided to feel the fear and do it anyway.

If our imagined scenarios were not very hopeful, in reality, we experienced something close to the worst case scenario. The first hour went well, only us and a few other passengers on the bus. We were sitting comfortably in a seat that is normally meant for 3 people (3 smaller size Indians mind you, rather than full size Westerners). Then we were reaching suburban Ernakulam and the bus started filling up to the point that all seats were taken and the only free seat, or rather quarter of a seat by our standards, was the one next to Jerry and I. An Indian gentleman took that seat, squeezing Jerry between him and me. By this time, the bus was stuck in a traffic jam in the midday heat and instead of a draft refreshing us, we had the full heat, dust and smells of rush-hour traffic coming in. This situation continued for another two hours during which no toilet stops were made. Then suddenly, almost everybody disappeared off the bus, except for a few of us, die-hards. We transferred into a seat for two people to prevent any future clogging. I was getting uncomfortable, almost starting to be desperate when suddenly the bus stopped in an isolated hamlet with one restaurant, a shop and yes!
The toilet.
I was saved.
After a 10 minute break, we carried on, almost literally, flying. Recovered and fuelled after his lunch the driver started driving with vigour and serious determination to break the record in narrow mountain road curve-cutting driving. The conductor who was walking through the middle of the bus, trying to reach new passengers entering, was thrown from left to right while we were holding on for dear life to the seat in front of us. This was one of those situations that we were worried about yet now that we were in the midst of it we saw the comedy of it all. We could not stop laughing.

I saw a sign saying that Kumily was some 60 km away. By this time we were on the road for 5 hours already, and this meant that we had at least another hour, maybe even two hours to go given the curviness of the mountain road. Suddenly, we reached a small town and almost every school-age child from all the neighbouring villages was getting on the bus. It seemed as if the fuller the bus got the faster the driver was trying to drive. All the seats were full and the standing passengers were squeezing through the middle of the bus, the conductor was trying to move through this density of people while the driver was increasing the speed. In the midst of all this I turned away from the window to tell Jerry about a beautiful plant I just saw, only to witness the conductor falling literally into Jerry's lap. This was the proverbial cherry on the top. I became hysterical with laughter. And as if all this was not enough, a tropical monsoon rain started pouring down - remember no windows on this bus. Luckily there were some black shutters that could be pulled down. Suddenly all the shutters were down, inside, the full bus went pretty dark. Everybody breathing, humidity at its highest, mixed up with various smells of the passengers and the old bus's diesel fumes. All our comfort zones were pushed to the limit and yet we were laughing. There was not much we could do when in the middle of it all. Well, yes we could curse ourselves for ever stepping onto this bus, or we could argue with reality, or we just could take it as it was, laugh it off, and enjoy the ride. We chose this last option.

Six and a half hours later we arrived to Kumily/Thekkady alive, hungry, exhausted and psychologically numb, yet still smiling. Maybe we were smiling because we were still alive and in one piece.

To be fair to the Kerala State Road Transport Company, even though the buses are old, we realised they are still well maintained in terms of safety, and despite the fact that the drivers drive fast even when taking curves, they beep in advance, which is meant to inform other drivers that they are coming. Strange as it may sound, this system works in managing to keep Indian roads quite safe.

In retrospect, we are both glad we did the journey, happy that we dared to challenge some of our comfort zones and even laughed, when facing those challenges. Most importantly, we came out of it being much more acquainted with our own strengths and limits.
Do we have a need to do it again? No. Would we do it again? Maybe yes. It is not important. What is important is that we stay open to travelling and exploring - be it an inner, or outer journey.

This blog has also been posted on A journey to India travel blog written jointly by Jerry Zondervan and myself. I choose to post it again here on this blog because in my opinion it actually examines some universal issues such as anxiety, fear and dealing with it, challenging our comfort zones as well as needs and related strategies.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Lessons in Love: Always take a chance to say “I love you!”

photo courtesy of

I woke up quite early this morning. Strictly speaking I do not know whether I woke up or whether I was really woken up by a dream. It was one of those very real dreams, the one you want to go back to and complete it. In it I was with my best male friend, whom I really was in love with. I was just telling him what an important part of my life he had been, and how much I had cared, and I'd just been about to say ''I love you'' to him when a group of other friends arrived and I woke up. A sweet lingering feeling of nostalgia, of a moment of shared tenderness building towards culmination and then the end. I woke up before those three beautiful - yet sometimes so difficult to say - words ''I love you'' ever had a chance to come out, forever staying inside of me.

The friend I was dreaming of is not alive any more he's been dead for over 23 years. He died when he was just 23 years old, and I last saw him on his 23rd birthday. I woke him up on that Sunday morning 23rd June 1991. He was a bit grumpy to be woken up, yet happy that I remembered his birthday. We spent a couple of hours chatting, I do not remember what about, but I certainly remember that I did not express the depth of feelings I had for him, thinking ''well, it is not a right moment'', I guess thinking maybe I could do it some other time, and of course not expressing it because I was scared of how he would receive those words, I feared being rejected. At that time I was young, inexperienced and I believed that if I had ever expressed my love to him and if he did not feel the same, although nowadays I am convinced he was as much in love with me as  I was with him, it would have been the end of our friendship. The end of our friendship came anyway, not from our choosing, but nevertheless it came. Less than five months after I last had seen him he was dead, killed in the war, that left our town and country ravaged, at the same time stopping his and changing my life forever. He was dead and I did not have any more chances to utter those words directly to him, no more chances to share the beauty of my love with him while looking into his eyes.

From where I stand in my life now I know that my love for him was not wasted, true love never is. It took me time to transform my grief, it took some deep mourning, but I learned to open my heart wider. I learned that love has to be lived through expression and that irrespective whether it is received with open arms or not by others the very act of sharing it is the act of loving and this has nothing to do with others and their reactions, but everything to do with ourselves. I learned that every time we take a chance to say I love you we also give ourselves a chance to enrich ourselves, to live and experience joy of simply loving.

However, in our modern culture, as well as classic literature, there has been too much focus on suffering from non-returned love, on love being worth giving only if it is received and returned, materialised, so to speak, in a form of ever lasting exclusive romantic relationship between two people. This focus narrows love almost to a barter. I give you that much love and for that you need to return so much back to me and only when this and other conditions are fulfilled, only then we are going to call it love and maybe dare to venture in it. This narrow focus misses the entire point, the most intrinsic quality of true love - it is unconditional. This means that the very beauty of love is in giving and sharing it openly without condition.

Beautiful as it may sound it is not always easy to practice. In our western societies, in which we have so many conditioned believes put in our heads about what love should or should not be, we spend so much time concentrating on what ifs, protecting ourselves from hurt to the point that we miss experiencing easy and uncomplicated flow of love. By protecting from potential hurt we miss a simple joy of loving and we miss a chance of enriching our own and someone else's life by letting them know that we love them. However, when we do allow ourselves to experience this flow of love then we are also free to express it with simple words of ''I love you" without needing to hear those words reflected back to us, we just let love flow.

Since I've heard of Željko's death all those years ago, choosing and expressing love has been my personal vow to my self and my way of honouring love for my friend, of course every now end then he needs to pop up in my dreams to remind me to 'stay on course'. I choose to interpret the above dream as a reminder to keep expressing my love, to keep sharing it and taking every chance I have to say ''I love you!'' to those around me who have been enriching me by their presence in my life. I choose to see this dream as a lesson in love, a reminder from my friend Željko, to take every chance I have to express love because I never know whether that chance would be the last one to say to that person, looking directly into their eyes: ''my life has been enriched for having known you'' and simply adding ''I love you!''

I hope that you can find in your life a reminder for yourself, which could help you to choose love the next time you are at that point of choice between succumbing to your fear of rejection on one side and love and its expression on the other.

If you've liked this article or if you know someone who is interested in reading about personal development and self-improvement, please forward this email to them. Let's share and grow from each other's experience.

Apart from my own coaching practice I also give relationship workshops and retreats together with my partner Jerry Zondervan for more info please click here.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Lessons in Love: Love in a Cup

Lessons in love are hiding in almost every moment and situation of our life. The question is whether we are ready to take an opportunity to live that moment fully and whether we are going to stay open to receiving a lesson in love that this moment and situation have the potential to teach us.

I've had one of these situations earlier this week. I woke up feeling a bit heavy, sluggish and not quite alert. One of those mornings when coffee becomes a basic and essential need rather than just a strategy to meeting some of my needs, such as, for example: awareness, being present and energy. As I went to the kitchen to make coffee, my partner, Jerry, offered to make that coffee for me. I accepted it gladly and went out to the terrace to enjoy the tranquility of the early morning sun and the many summer smells. I  allowed birds to awaken me with their singing.

When Jerry brought me the coffee I started sipping with pleasure and decided to read some inspirational text to contribute to my need for inner peace and self-connection. Most of the short stories I was reading were about living kindness through action, living from your heart, making ordinary moments extraordinary through sharing our humanness and love – inspiring indeed!

A half hour after my first coffee, Jerry asked whether I would enjoy another one. Still not fully awakened I was grateful for the offer and accepted it with both hands. There came the second coffee served in my favourite cup. I looked at it and even before saying thank you judgmental thoughts such as ''oh the cup is too full'' and ''he has probably heated too much milk and poured it all in'', started racing through my mind.
Now those who know me well, probably even those who met me a few times only, have realised that coffee, especially in the morning is a sacred ritual for me. I am very particular (you can even read it as stuck-up and close minded *;) winking) about what kind of coffee I like, as well as how I like to take it. It has to be strong, but not bitter. I am not a fan of dark roast, I prefer beans from Latin and Central America rather than those from Africa or Asia. It should be served with hot milk, not just slightly warm, and there should be neither too much nor too little milk added...

Well, now, you probably just by reading the above are thinking that if you ever meet me, you'd never attempt to serve me a cup of coffee. However, Jerry has taken on that challenge many times and he has learned to make it just the way I want it. You see, my well-being, even when it takes a quirky form about coffee, has been important enough for him, so that when he gives me a gift of coffee, (or any other gift for that matter) he makes it in a way that I can truly experience it as a gift, the way I like it and enjoy in it fully.

So here we were with the second cup of coffee in front of me, my judgements flying through my head, and before I even stopped for a moment to look at those judgements, I heard myself blurting out ''you know, you do not have to put all the milk that you have heated in the coffee!'' Calmly, without any aggression or even offence in his voice Jerry replied ''before you judge, perhaps, you can hear what I did and what my intention was.'' He continued by saying he made a batch of coffee to which he added hot milk, only to realise that the coffee looked a bit too white, so he proceeded to make another batch of coffee, which he added to the original in order to make it just the colour I like and to taste exactly the way I like it. His intention was to ensure he made me a cup of coffee that would give me joy.

Hearing this I stopped for a moment, I was able to recognise and laugh at the irony of the situation. There I was getting inspiration from reading about love and human kindness, yet failing to recognise and receive it when it was right in front of me. This was a moment of awareness and I just allowed my heart to open in the now in this new moment and I allowed the truth of my humanness to penetrate me. Yes, I wish to live my life from my heart allowing flow of love and kindness to and from it. And yes, at the same time, sometimes, I still react from my conditioned and judgemental mind before I allow my heart to open and before I give myself the time to act in line with my heart and its desire to live from love and kindness.

So yes, I have missed the initial gift of love expressed through that cup of coffee, but I did not need to miss the lesson. By catching myself in the negativity of my reaction, I was at the point  of choosing: On one side I could continue staying closed and reactive and on the other side I could choose to open myself to be touched by love and the intention of care and nurturing that my partner had put into making that cup of coffee. By choosing to open my heart I have also opened myself to learning from the situation and receiving a lesson in love.

Sometimes, actually most of the time, love is hidden in small things, in small gestures or in a few words, and sometimes like in my case, described above, it was hidden in a cup of coffee filled to the brim with love.

If you've liked this article or if you know someone who is interested in reading about personal development and self-improvement, please forward this email to them. Let's share and grow from each other's experience.

Together with my above mentioned partner Jerry I give relationship workshops and retreats for more info please click here.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Being Me, Loving You: Creating and Living a Healthy Relationship

I am very excited to share the news about my latest project. Together with my partner in life, Jerry Zondervan I am offering and facilitating a long weekend workshop under the title Being Me Loving You: Creating and Living a Healthy Relationship.
After meeting in an intensive 9-day international intensive training in Nonviolent Communication in 2009 Jerry and I decided to share our lives and put in practice all that we have learned in the NVC trainings and books. In creating and living our relationship we have both been inspired by a quote from the book ''Being Genuine: Stop Being Nice, Start Being Real" by Thomas D'Ansmborg: 
''Very few people living as couples are in a person to person relationship, a relationship of responsibility, autonomy and freedom where each party feels the strength and confidence to say: We , you and I, both have the strength and autonomy, and at the same time we love being together because it is even more joyful to share, to exchange, and be together. We do not strive to fill up the gaps but to exchange plenitude!"

In the last six years Jerry and I have had plenty of opportunities to test our commitment to a person to person relationship, in which we each take responsibility for our own feelings and fulfilment of our own needs. At the same time, we have encouraged each other to live in freedom, sharing our lives with each other from our own authenticity. For many, this sounds great and aspirational, yet, by the same token, unrealistic and impossible to achieve. However, we know it is possible and we are now offering to support those who wish to create and build on such a person to person relationship with our individual and joint know-how and experience.
During this workshop, with our focus on needs based communication (otherwise known as Compassionate or Nonviolent Communication) we help couples to move away from the level of strategies and thoughts, which is where the conflicts and judgements of each other are often embedded. We supportively and safely guide partners to a different level of relating, person to person from the heart, rather than at the level of judgements and beliefs conditioned by their family and cultural background. Equally, we help partners with their verbal communication, so that they can honestly express their most precious needs and yearnings while, at the same time, they can emphatically hear the needs of their partner.

Our next workshop will take place in The Netherlands, in De ZevendeHemel, Body, Mind and Spirit Centre in The Hague from Thursday evening 24th September until Sunday afternoon 27th September 2015. You can find more information about the workshop by clicking here
If you or anyone you know are interested in our workshop I would be delighted to hear from you.

I would appreciate help with promoting this workshop as widely as posible, so please if you have read this forward it on to your networks and friends. 


Sunday, 29 March 2015

Thoughts are like snowballs

Today's post is more like a morning thought captured and with a bit of imagination turned into a playful inspiration, rather than a fully developed blog. Of course, this last thought in the previous sentence ''a fully developed blog'' can lend itself to a whole new discussion on what my idea of blog is, what other people's opinions on that are, what blog should or should not be, etc. I am, however, choosing to stay focused and to store the thought on the blog, maybe for another discussion for another time.

So, thoughts are like snowballs. If you do not pay attention to a snowball when it is still small and on top of the hill it might soon start rolling down the hill becoming bigger, faster and more forceful. Once the snowball gets the momentum going it is likely to create an avalanche and in the process it will destroy many beautiful things that find themselves in its way. However, if you catch that small snowball when it is still on the top of the hill, if you take it into your hands, you get playful and creative with it you can roll it into any shape you like. You can make a beautiful snowman out of it, or if you take more time, get even more involved with it and apply more skills to it, starting from that small snowball you can develop it into a wonderful and safe igloo house that can shelter you from a snow storm.

It is similar with thoughts, if you leave them unchecked they will get a momentum and start running through your mind one after the other with increasing speed. Before you know it you'll be spinning around with worry and feeling out of control. If, however, you capture that first thought and you inquire into it with awareness and you stay open to whatever comes you can awaken your playful creativity and joy.

So, next time you notice a thought, stop for a moment and look at it with awareness. Capture that thought, make a friend and a playful companion of it, before it gets the momentum of its own and starts running wild, avalanching through your mind, creating chaos and devastation in the process.

Thank you for reading and please forward it to those who you think would enjoy reading it.
Please leave a comment, if this post has touched you in any way.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Self-acceptance and self-love

These two concepts go hand in hand with each other. You cannot truly and fully love yourself if you do not accept yourself fully, and you cannot accept yourself fully if you do not love yourself. It is a little bit like with the chicken and the egg, no one can really answer what comes first and it does not even matter which one comes first. What actually matters is that you cannot have one without the other and what is even more important is that in order to be a healthy, thriving, fulfilled, loving and loveable individual you have to both accept and love yourself as you are. 

In our modern societies, however, where the emphasis is often put on perfection and where self-love is often misunderstood for selfishness it is not easy to accept and love ourselves just as we are. It is even more counter culture to nurture ourselves with love and acceptance rather than to reproach ourselves with shame and guilt, especially when we and our actions are less than perfect. It is not easy, but it is essential. Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of the Nonviolent Communication approach used to say often ''anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.'' At first we might be puzzled by his statement. However, if we just stop for a moment and ask ourselves what message Marshall might wish to convey to us with such a statement we might discover that perhaps he is saying: give yourself a permission to do what you believe in, what you are passionate about, allow yourself to give what you have to give in this moment however much or little it may be, and give to others the gift of yourself, just as you are. Do not wait with doing things until you can do them perfectly, or even more importantly do not wait until you are ''perfect'' (if such thing even exist), because if you wait for that perfection you might end up never doing what actually is worth doing. Even more sadly you may miss sharing with others that what is so unique and precious about you, your humanity – yourself as you really are.

In order to share myself as I really am I need to be at that point where I love myself as I am, so I need to see and accept that I, as I am, have worth and intrinsic value of just being a human with all my qualities, even those that are often seen as ''shortcomings'' rather than ''qualities.'' This also includes acceptance of and loving myself in the moments when I feel angry, grumpy, disappointed, annoyed or frustrated. It seems easy to accept and love yourself when you feel positive, when you feel as if you are effortlessly flying, everything seems to flow smoothly and you feel like you are on top of the world. What about the moments or even days when you feel stuck, when you cannot quite concentrate on anything, the more you try to do something the more it feels like pushing stones up the steep hill. In those moments it takes mindful presence to stay in touch with yourself just as you are, to accept that you are just a bit out of sync with yourself and even more so with the rest of the world. It is in those moments that we need to love ourselves the most. These are certainly kind of moments when we need to allow that love to be practised through gentle and kind acceptance of ourselves just as we are. Through staying present with our own feelings of anger, unease, sadness, and groundlessness of not knowing, but just bearing a witness to what is, without attaching to it as good or bad, without trying to fix it or make it better.

Since getting the inspiration to write this post two days ago I had a personal experience with and realisation related to the very subjects I am writing about so I wish to share that personal part as well.

Two days ago I woke up with this kind of feeling of unease, bordering on tears and not quite knowing why. I went for a walk in the beautiful sierra behind the set of houses where I live. Once I started walking among the pine trees with the sunshine on my face I just relaxed into those feeling of unease and sadness I realised that they were connected to my need for meaning and purpose as well as my need for inspiration and creativity.
I realised that I had been wanting inspiration for several days, however instead of tuning in with myself, I had been playing a ''good soldier.'' For a couple of days prior to that morning I had been diligently sitting in front of the computer trying (read ''ordering'' myself) to write a blog. I decided that writing a blog would be meaningful, as well as a useful activity to do. You see, my mind took over and decided that apart from being meaningful and useful, it will give me something to do, and anyway it was the high time I posted another blog, and on and on my mind went...

Yes, I probably was already trying to fulfil my needs for meaning, purpose, even creativity (after all writing is a creative activity). However the problem was that I was not even connected to those needs from my heart I just went head on (the pun is unintentional but I like it *:D big grin) with a strategy – blog writing - that I decided would give me a chance to creatively express myself and would give me a chance to use my free time meaningfully! From this perspective now, I can see I was showing no respect for where I was at emotionally or mentally. I was not paying attention to what my feelings and needs were. That really means I was acting very unloving towards myself, not accepting where I was and how I was feeling which was rather uninspired and unproductive. I was following a recipe for complete misalignment with myself. 

It comes, therefore, as no surprise that I started writing a blog on one subject without much flow, so another idea popped up so I tried that one. I managed to write approximately half a page on each subject in space of two days switching between writing and checking my e-mail accounts, distracting myself with Facebook, making coffee, looking for something sweet to eat... Clearly this diligent sitting and making myself write was contributing neither to my need for inspiration nor creativity and it was moving me even further from bringing any meaning to my life whatsoever.
Two days went by and I had two blogs started but not finished and not even knowing where I was going with them. Despite several other little jobs done in those two days, I woke up two days ago feeling empty and sad. I did not try to cheer myself up or to push those feelings away I paid attention to them and just accepted them as they were. As I already mentioned above I recognised that these uncomfortable feelings were just messages trying to call my attention. I had enough awareness and enough self-love to say ''wait a second I need some time and solitude here to just be with myself and to allow space for any feelings, and especially needs that are being unacknowledged to come up.''
My acknowledging my feelings and needs and accepting them just as they were and my loving act of just taking time for me have already open up the flow. In addition, I got inspired as well. While I was walking through the forest I got an idea to write about acceptance and then the word love sneaked in as if to say ''hey how can you talk about acceptance especially self-acceptance without mentioning me!” So that afternoon I started this very blog about self-love and self-acceptance. This time I enjoyed putting words down and experiencing the flow. Even though I started writing this post from true inspiration and I had some passion about it I noticed that I was staying on the subject in general terms, I did not seem to be touching it up close and personal. However, in the evening when I was sharing with my partner some of the feelings and needs that I experienced earlier in the day, a little light went on and it became clear to me; the inspiration to write about these two subjects: self-acceptance and self-love, came to me because that is exactly what I was needing to give to myself, exactly what I missed in previous days.
Once I started accepting me as I was I allowed the flow of love (which is always inside of us) to emerge, which in turn was enabling the beauty of needs for meaning, purpose and inspiration to be fully alive, acknowledged and consequently fulfilled in the process.

I could not help but smile at yet another realisation of how perfect the life always is and how all that we ever need is right there inside of us waiting to be discovered and ''allowed'' to flow.

Thank you for reading and please forward it to those who you think can benefit from it.
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