How to love and the “Interbeing”

The relationships we have with people change over time. The way we treat ourselves does too. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I personally am still re-discovering the art of inner peace and as the person I will quote calls it ‘interbeing’. I stumbled upon this excerpt from the wisdom of a Buddhist monk (I know, I am nothing about Zen myself; and, yes I will normally scoff and dismiss anyone who suggests to me such a reading material). So, if you were struggling to define what love is, what inner peace and love of self is, this could be helpful.. (I hope you don’t mind that the pieces are from here and there and sometimes lack coherent transition from one paragraph to the next).

“If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable. But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash, and drink. The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they understand, you can’t love.

When we feed and support our own happiness, we are nourishing our ability to love. That’s why to love means to learn the art of nourishing our happiness.

Understanding someone’s suffering is the best gift you can give another person. Understanding is love’s other name. If you don’t understand, you can’t love.

If our parents didn’t love and understand each other, how are we to know what love looks like? … The most precious inheritance that parents can give their children is their own happiness. Our parents may be able to leave us money, houses, and land, but they may not be happy people. If we have happy parents, we have received the richest inheritance of all.

Often, we get crushes on others not because we truly love and understand them, but to distract ourselves from our suffering. When we learn to love and understand ourselves and have true compassion for ourselves, then we can truly love and understand another person.

Sometimes we feel empty; we feel a vacuum, a great lack of something. We don’t know the cause; it’s very vague, but that feeling of being empty inside is very strong. We expect and hope for something much better so we’ll feel less alone, less empty. The desire to understand ourselves and to understand life is a deep thirst. There’s also the deep thirst to be loved and to love. We are ready to love and be loved. It’s very natural. But because we feel empty, we try to find an object of our love. Sometimes we haven’t had the time to understand ourselves, yet we’ve already found the object of our love. When we realize that all our hopes and expectations of course can’t be fulfilled by that person, we continue to feel empty. You want to find something, but you don’t know what to search for. In everyone there’s a continuous desire and expectation; deep inside, you still expect something better to happen. That is why you check your email many times a day!

The essence of loving kindness is being able to offer happiness. You can be the sunshine for another person. You can’t offer happiness until you have it for yourself. So build a home inside by accepting yourself and learning to love and heal yourself. Learn how to practice mindfulness in such a way that you can create moments of happiness and joy for your own nourishment. Then you have something to offer the other person.

If you have enough understanding and love, then every moment — whether it’s spent making breakfast, driving the car, watering the garden, or doing anything else in your day — can be a moment of joy.

In a deep relationship, there’s no longer a boundary between you and the other person. You are her and she is you. Your suffering is her suffering. Your understanding of your own suffering helps your loved one to suffer less. Suffering and happiness are no longer individual matters. What happens to your loved one happens to you. What happens to you happens to your loved one.

In true love, there’s no more separation or discrimination. His happiness is your happiness. Your suffering is his suffering. You can no longer say, “That’s your problem.

When you love someone, you have to have trust and confidence. Love without trust is not yet love. Of course, first you have to have trust, respect, and confidence in yourself. Trust that you have a good and compassionate nature. You are part of the universe; you are made of stars. When you look at your loved one, you see that he is also made of stars and carries eternity inside. Looking in this way, we naturally feel reverence. True love cannot be without trust and respect for oneself and for the other person.

To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love. To know how to love someone, we have to understand them. To understand, we need to listen.

When you love someone, you should have the capacity to bring relief and help him to suffer less. This is an art. If you don’t understand the roots of his suffering, you can’t help, just as a doctor can’t help heal your illness if she doesn’t know the cause. You need to understand the cause of your loved one’s suffering in order to help bring relief.

The more you understand, the more you love; the more you love, the more you understand. They are two sides of one reality. The mind of love and the mind of understanding are the same.

Often, when we say, “I love you” we focus mostly on the idea of the “I” who is doing the loving and less on the quality of the love that’s being offered. This is because we are caught by the idea of self. We think we have a self. But there is no such thing as an individual separate self. A flower is made only of non-flower elements, such as chlorophyll, sunlight, and water. If we were to remove all the non-flower elements from the flower, there would be no flower left. A flower cannot be by herself alone. A flower can only inter-be with all of us… Humans are like this too. We can’t exist by ourselves alone. We can only inter-be. I am made only of non-me elements, such as the Earth, the sun, parents, and ancestors. In a relationship, if you can see the nature of interbeing between you and the other person, you can see that his suffering is your own suffering, and your happiness is his own happiness. With this way of seeing, you speak and act differently. This in itself can relieve so much suffering.”

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Posted by on June 12, 2016 in Love


Never forget to take care of yourself first

You know how during the airplane safety instructions they always tell you to put your own mask first and then to assist those around you who need help – even if these are your loved ones. After bitter experience, I am trying to follow that credo when it comes to many other things in life. Let me explain.

A few months ago I was under extraordinary stress. Some of it was real, other parts had been piled up there due to my tendency to over think and overall issues with anxiety. I was so busy juggling between a new job, finishing my dissertation, finalizing the job I was doing on the side, language course, and personal life. I was, subconsciously or not, trying to please everyone. Whenever people would request more from me, I would not even think twice and go out of my way to do the given task. I never said no to additional work they would give me in the second job, at time-consuming (and often boring) tasks at my first one. I would try to go out of my way to accommodate the needs of my parents, my partner, and everyone else in my immediate surrounding. I was so busy and somehow so unequipped to deal with this new type of stress in my life, I was at my wit’s end.

Then I started having problems sleeping. I would fall asleep easily but 2-3 hours later, I would wake and not be able to get a wink of sleep anymore. That would make me even more tired and irritable. Everything would annoy me, I would be so alert, at times I felt I could just explode. I did not have time to do sports but even exercise would not help me to stay asleep. Then I started feeling very itchy on my arms, calves and legs. I scratched until it hurt. And it still itched some more. And the less I slept, the worse it would get.

After a consultation with a doctor, it turned out I most probably have a stress-induced (and more common among women) inflammation of the skin and urgently need to get some sleep. So I started taking supplements which are supposed to calm you down, and had to take them for the coming 4 months. At first they did help a lot. I remember I was so happy after sleeping through the night, I felt reborn. My mood improved, the irritation on my skin decreased. The short-run effect was immediate but also short-lived.

The most important change had to come from within. I had to learn to let go of worry, especially when the thing I worry about is out of my control. Sometimes when I am very anxious about something, I try to remember what my father always said to me when I was young and worried about some triviality. He would ask me, “So what if that happens? Think about it, will it really be the end of the world?.”  Thinking and learning to accept the worst case scenario long before it happened is actually very helpful to me. If you calmly and rationally access these options and scenarios, you would be better prepared to act upon it, in case it happened.

These days my life is down a few sources of stress but it is long-term battle. I notice just when I get moe nervous and worried about something, my skin inflammation is back. I have also made some healthy choices in my diet in order to stress my body less. I try to find more time for myself and for the things I extract good vibes from. Most nights I sleep through the night, but sometimes I need to have a rational conversation with myself to induce it. And I am still learning and findings new ways from the sure path of a heart attack before I am 30 that I was on to. And I hope to get better at it soon because it is so empowering and such a relief just to let go and care less.



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Posted by on June 11, 2016 in Life, Stress


How it feels to get a PhD

As someone who was a part of the academic world for a few years, it would happen that every now and then a diligent colleague or a friend would manage to defend their dissertation and get their longed-for PhD. Strangely, every now and then when I’d attend such events, I’d feel the formality and importance of it all. A side note, in the Netherlands PhD defenses are super formal. You have the committee all dressed in their garments, grilling you with allegedly tough questions for an hour in an open event for everyone at the university to attend, if they wish so. They address you with ‘dear candidate’ and you respond back with ‘highly (or very) esteemed opponent’.

The whole formality of the event does not contribute towards a stress-free and pleasant experience. But it does, however, make the event feel like a big deal. It is not just an ordinary day, you are after all this time, getting your title!

After the committee has made their decision to give you the title, you receive your diploma, with a red wax stamp on it, in a big tube-like container. Then your supervisor gives a small speech about you, which is supposed to contain a few anecdotes and a little bit of praise.

Usually such ceremonies move me. I am always able to sympathize with the candidate, admire their hard work and perseverance, and have always been a little bit dreamy, wishing one day, soon enough, I would be able to defend my own dissertation as well. Hell, I am not ashamed to admit I get goosebumps and a little teary every so often.

All until it was my time to defend. Stress aside, I felt mostly numb. None of the pride and emotions I expected to feel. I did not get goosebumps, I did not get misty-eyed. In a nutshell, it did not feel like a big deal. Maybe because I did not make a big fuss out of it. People sometimes have all their families attending, starting from distant cousins to their sister’s recent casual fling, all kind of friends —  from distant childhood to their recent drinking buddies. I had no family in the audience, only my boyfriend, a few people from the department, some of my PhD colleagues, and 2 of the colleagues in my recent job. There were people who said would make it to the ceremony, people I considered good and close friends, but who were not there. Perhaps this took away from the significance of the event for me, at least a little bit. Perhaps I just could not realize what was going on, or subconsciously had decided to toughen myself up so that I will not start weeping like an idiot the moment I get the longed for red-waxed diploma. Perhaps. Perhaps the reward was not in the ceremony itself and getting the degree. Or maybe the rewards came all in little phases. First you submit your thesis to the committee. Then they say yes. And you print the book. The moment you receive a box of books at your home having your name on the cover is in itself quite uplifting.

Or perhaps the joy doesn’t just hit you at once. Maybe the work itself, the grueling hours, late nights and weekends you spent on it and putting it all behind is the prize itself. The self-discipline, dedication and motivation  are a morale training like no other.

Or maybe all the literature I read about aspirations and their effect on our well-being was right after all. Some suggest that your own status not per se your is not what matters for your happiness but your state relative to that of others. And if you win a lottery, for example, you quickly adjust to the new fortune and soon enough aspirations kick in and you want more. You can imagine that someone driven enough to pursue a PhD would still be ruled by ambition. There is this very much ‘meh’ moment after you graduate. Especially if you quit academia and know that this is going to be the highest degree you will ever get.

Perhaps. Or perhaps I still need a few more days for the joy to kick in. In the meantime, I am still waiting.


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Posted by on May 4, 2016 in PhD life, Uncategorized


What it is that really makes me happy

Months ago I had a post, in which I declared my intention to use my latest passion (and currently occupation) to crack down the secret the happiness (see it here). So, I collected some data about myself for a couple of months (I admit I was not persistent enough with it) and all the little things that might affect my well-being on that day. I analysed these data now, after finding some time, and *drumroll* here are the ffindings.

Details I recorded included how well physically I felt during the day, what was the weather like, how productive I was in my job, what kind of sports I did during that day (if any), what type of socializing activities took place, even things I had for breakfast and lunch (I admit I did not vary too much).

The sample was perhaps a non-typical period in my life as I was in the process of looking for a job, and job rejections or positive news on that front did play a role in my happiness level. I rated my own happiness in the morning and in the evening and in my analysis, I looked at both factor individually, as well as their difference. And yes, everything is super biased as technically there is only me in the sample. However, I was mining for some interesting patterns about factors that might be correlated with my happiness. So, sadly the findings do not apply to you or some average, representative population. Or perhaps there might be some coincidences. Overall some expected, some less expected things emerged from my little experiment.

  1. If I woke up in a bad mood, it was likely to be persistent during the day.
  2. Things such as self-rated health, health-related complaints, and even monthly hormonal fluctuations seemed to matter a lot for me (obviously, the healthier, the happier I felt).
  3. As to be expected, if I received bad news in my job search, this made me grumpier, but if the news were good, it would more than compensate any bad news I might have received on the same day.
  4. Doing any kind of sports increased my happiness (the sport activities were mostly running, or if the weather was bad, spinning and some exercises at home). Interestingly, the number of kilometers I ran is negatively associated with how happy I was in the end of the day. So, on a subconscious level I am lazy, I guess (or my body feels better if I don’t overdo it).
  5. If I did any sort of fun activity with other people/ socializing, I’d be happier. However, if the contact was mostly online (say, to some friends who live back home or moved abroad), the sign was negative. What explains this could be that if I am less happy, I might be more likely to reach out to some close friends with whom I communicate mostly online.
  6. Shockingly, the number of drinks I had in a day decreased my happiness in the end of the day. Again, this could be due to the fact that I seldom drink alone, so if this was the case, I perhaps felt gloomy and hoped the drink to cheer me up (we all do it sometimes, don’t judge). I will know better for the future and stay away from the wine and run for the chocolate instead.
  7. Recently I realized how important sleep can be. And the data confirm that if I had nice, long sleep during the night and woke up on my own (uninterrupted by noises and the alarm clock), I felt happier.
  8. As I expected, the hotter the weather was, the less happy I was (I cannot tolerate heat in general).
  9. And inexplicably, somehow omelette or French toast for breakfast make me really happy, but oatmeal or a smoothie really sad. This one is still a mystery to me.

Oh, I guess I should have given a dork alert earlier into this column 🙂


Posted by on March 27, 2016 in Uncategorized


As I Began to Love Myself

For a while now, I have admired the wisdom and art of living of Charlie Chaplin. I recently stumbled upon this poem, which he read to a group of friends on this 70th birthday. For me personally, it comes very timely. I never do New Year’s resolutions, I make my resolutions throughout the whole year instead. But if there is one thing I need to promise myself, it is to take care of myself more, to love me more, to stick to my own perceptions of who I am and what the world it, and to protect my determination and innocence from everything that might diminish it.

Here is the beautiful poem. I hope anyone who is reading this will also appreicate it.

As I Began to Love Myself – Self Love Poem by Charlie Chaplin

As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering
are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth.
Today, I know, this is “AUTHENTICITY”.

As I began to love myself I understood how much it can offend somebody As I try to force my desires on this person, even though I knew the time
was not right and the person was not ready for it, and even though this
person was me.Today I call it “RESPECT”.

As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life,
and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to grow.
Today I call it “MATURITY”.

As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance,
I am in the right place at the right time, and everything happens
at the exactly right moment. So I could be calm.
Today I call it “SELF-CONFIDENCE”.

As I began to love myself I quit steeling my own time,
and I stopped designing huge projects for the future.
Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do
and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in
my own rhythm. Today I call it “SIMPLICITY”.

As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for
my health – food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew
me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude
a healthy egoism. Today I know it is “LOVE OF ONESELF”.

As I began to love myself I quit trying to always be right, and ever since
I was wrong less of the time. Today I discovered that is “MODESTY”.

As I began to love myself I refused to go on living in the past and worry
about the future. Now, I only live for the moment, where EVERYTHING
is happening. Today I live each day, day by day, and I call it “FULFILLMENT”.

As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me
and it can make me sick. But As I connected it to my heart, my
mind became a valuable ally.Today I call this connection “WISDOM OF THE HEART”.

We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations or any kind of problems
with ourselves or others. Even stars collide, and out of their crashing
new worlds are born. Today I know THAT IS “LIFE”!

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Posted by on January 2, 2016 in Love for oneself, Uncategorized


2015: My Review

As wordpress helpfully fed me with statistics about the status and activity on my blog in the past year, I couldn’t help but ponder about what has happened in 2015, what I managed to achieve and what not.

Overall, it has been a year which started with some personal, soul-wrenching difficulties, but ended well. All in all, I found a new passion and drive in life, completed an online degree in it and found a job in that field. I completed my PhD, which was successfully accepted for a defence by the committee. I travelled to a few new countries I had never been to before, I tried new things, met new friendly and kind people, ate new food and sipped some sweet, delicious drinks as the sun was warming up my skin and my toes were buried in the sand. I went to concerts of bands I dreamt of seeing live and got tickets to some equally exciting upcoming ones. I discovered I have acquired a taste for classical music, opera and all kinds of cultural activities. I have grown up in a way, became more open-minded and less judgmental, which is something I am proud of. I have progressed in building myself towards the person I want to be, and I have managed to nurture and grow relationships that I find meaningful. I am closer to my family, and I have covered some important milestones in my relationship that have brought us closer together.

I did read many books although compared to last year when I logged 50, this year the number is closer to 25. I did not return to my marathon shape and with my busy schedule, I have decreased my running to only 2 times a week. But as long as I can still run a half-marathon without falling apart in the meantime, I am not worried. I did not always have the time to socialize as much as I would have liked to. I did not always find the time for all of my friends, but it was a sacrifice I had to make because I was working hard on my goals. And it seems I have become an optimist 🙂 So, overall, I can look back and see 2015 as a good year.

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Posted by on December 30, 2015 in Uncategorized


2015 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,000 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 17 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Posted by on December 30, 2015 in Uncategorized, Year review