I cannot endure one moment without You

My Beloved,
By Your leave and unceasing attention
my  heart continues to beat.
I cannot endure one moment without You.
You are my hope, my saviour.
There is only You to turn to.
How exalted are You, how infinite and
far-reaching Your glory.
I love You with all my heart.
How rich is Your beauty, how heavy
and all-encompassing Your mercy.
Words cannot describe Your majesty.

I believe in You, in Your power, wisdom,
fierce and gentle love.
You sustain me and I’m grateful.
My Lord, only You can heal my wounds
and grant me the safety and connection
I so desperately seek.
I turn to You with all my heart.
Please save me from my despair and depression.
Let me know love and belonging.
If you do not help me, love me and forgive me
I will certainly be among the lost.
Help me to bloom and thrive, dear God. Please
help me to be happy & grateful and to do
good in the world.

Amīn.

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The Messenger

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

– Mary Oliver, Thirst

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What’s wrong with being ‘passive’?

Make your ego porous. Will is of little importance, complaining is nothing, fame is nothing. Openness, patience, receptivity, solitude is everything.
-R.M. Rilke

Throughout the years, I met a few people who actively disliked or criticised me because they thought I was too ‘passive’, too little involved, too stingy with my opinion. Yesterday, after a meeting, another person asked me why I was so ‘passive’ and gave so little feedback. I answered honestly: I didn’t know that much about the subject, I preferred to listen and learn for now.

It’s like our society expects us to be instantly capable, to be instantly competent and confident in whatever you choose to undertake. If you’re not, fake it until you make it.
After a lot of hurt trying to be like that and fake it, I’ve given myself permission to be a student of life and to be honest about that: I’m here to learn. No, I don’t have an opinion yet on the subject, please check in again later. Without this permission, I’d be scared to undertake anything at all. Why would I? I’m not instantly competent. I am learning and that makes me vulnerable. If I can’t hold the space for myself in this vulnerable position and defend myself against people who want to wrestle an opinion from me before its time, it would indeed be harmful for me to try anything new.

It’s in my nature to be observant and to process things before actively talking about them. This seems to really irk some people, mistaking it for laziness or disinterest.
But I also know that I do have opinions on subjects that really matter to me and that I would give them if that particular subject came up. It’s not my fault if you judge me on subjects that interest you, but don’t have much meaning for me (yet).

I don’t look at it as being a passive person, more like someone who, in Rilke’s words, is “patient toward all that is unsolved in the heart” and who “lives the questions”. I understand that this might not be what our culture really values right now, but I admit that I don’t really care. This world is desperately in need of balance, of patience, waiting and gestation next to constant action, productivity and noise.

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You deserve respect and consideration from everyone

It doesn’t matter if the person in question is a stranger or your spouse. It doesn’t matter how that person feels about you or what your relationship is. It doesn’t matter that you are on a first date and the person opposite you doesn’t know you or love you yet. Love is not a requisite for respect and consideration.

If someone is rude to you or completely disregards your needs, wishes or dignity, it’s not about you. It’s about who they are. You didn’t ‘invite’ this person to treat you badly. Everyone knows that they should be considerate towards others, some just choose not to and to test how much they can get away with. If someone takes advantage of your kindness and generosity, see it for what it really is: their bad character.

Someone who treats you without respect will not improve on acquaintance or suddenly realise that they should in fact pay attention to your needs because you are such a lovely person. And if they do, how would the remembrance of how they treat strangers affect you? Why is only someone who is invested in them or who can mean something to them worthy of consideration and good behaviour from their part? Being considerate and respectful is the norm, not some reward you hand out to people who please you in some way.

Pay attention to how you are feeling after you’ve spend time with someone. Don’t try to rationalise it. There is no excuse for treating you poorly, for not showing you the respect that you would show them. End of story. Sometimes (or perhaps oftentimes) we need to keep it really simple. Your life is too short to worry about how others feel about you. It doesn’t matter that much. You are safe. You are your own person. You can survive without other people’s approval. Have your standards, make sure you treat others with respect and consideration, stay close to yourself and how you are feeling and keep your distance from people who honestly just make you feel bad. You don’t need to impress them. You already are wonderful, smart, funny, intelligent and a blessing to be around. If they can’t see that, then it’s their loss. Please stop blaming and criticising yourself. It’s ok to stop trying to get them to like you. You don’t need them in your life. You don’t have to prove to them that you are in fact worthy of kindness, of attention, of love, of care. Of course you are. Wait for the ones who will know your worth all by themselves, without you needing to prove anything. They exist, trust me.

 

Another letter to the Beloved

My dear Beloved,

Thank You for the many, many blessings you have given me.
I know now that your religion is love, peace, compassion, understanding, presence.
I love You. I have always loved You and I will always love You. My heart beats because of You. I am Yours completely. I am known by You.
Please remain close to me always and let me be a blessing for others, treating them with presence, love, compassion and understanding. Please help me to remember that I am Yours and that all will be well.
Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah.
Thank You for my radiant health.
Thank You for the people who love me.
Thank You for the food and water I have in abundance.
Please bless the world and let no creature go hungry, whether from lack of food or lack of warmth, love and kinship.
Let every creature be nourished and fulfilled.
Amen.

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How to make meditation easier

One of my new year’s resolutions is to meditate every day. This is a habit that I know has a very beneficial effect on me, yet it’s one I always find myself postponing until it just doesn’t happen. I think this has partly to do with my perfectionism: when I do it, I want to meditate long and get it right. So I set myself a rigorous (to my untrained and sometimes lazy mind) schedule: do meditation for 30 minutes two times a day.

But when the time comes, I inwardly balk at having to sit down and confront my feelings. I’d rather do anything else. Yet when I do sit down and take the time to notice how I’m feeling, I instantly feel better, less lonely and more loved. It’s a proof to myself that I’m worthy of my own attention, care and love and that’s something very powerful and transforming.

So in order to be able to keep up my meditation practice, I’m experimenting with ways to make it more appealing and less like a chore. This requires first letting go of my perfectionism and instead to listen to what feels right for me.
This is what I’ve come up with so far:

1) Know why you are doing this. Make a list of your reasons for taking this time for yourself. Describe how you feel afterwards. Read inspiring articles such as this one to motivate you. (etc.)

2) Make sure you are comfortable.  Choose a cosy spot, perhaps light a candle, make a cup of tea beforehand or take your favourite flowers with you. If your legs start hurting, pause, choose a different position or simply lie down.

3) Write down things that feel really urgent to your mind.
It’s the surest way of giving yourself some peace and quiet. If you just try to (as I have done many times) ‘let it go’ and focus on your breathing again, your mind will indignantly slap you around the head and remind you constantly why this very thought needs to be addressed RIGHT NOW or you’ll forget. Write it down so you know you’ll remember.

4) Start small. Sitting still with yourself and relinquishing all defences between you and your thoughts and feelings is one of the bravest things you will ever do. Don’t expect to endure it for long in the beginning or your mind will start to associate meditation with torture and run for the hills. Start small and carve out 10 to 15 minutes. If you manage to focus even a few seconds on your breathing and the present moment, give yourself a pat on the back. Then return to your breathing whenever you get distracted.

5) Be gentle with yourself. Most of us are not trained at all to be present with ourselves. Don’t beat yourself up if you get distracted by your thoughts (which will inevitably happen). Instead, thank your mind for coming up with valuable insights and working so diligently for you, even in your downtime. Like I said before, write down the things that seem important to remember and then focus on your breathing again and how you are feeling right now. When you get distracted, gently bring yourself back by saying ‘thinking, my friend‘ or ‘thinking, sweetheart‘ so you realise what happened. (This is an idea I got from the great buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön.)

I hope this was helpful. Happy meditating.:)

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My New Year’s Resolutions

amazing yearI’m always rather perfectionistic and idealistic when it comes to setting resolutions to do better, whether it’s for the new year or the next day. I want to do a thousand things all at once, and then I get disappointed when I start slacking (which I inevitably will) and in the end, I just want to crawl under my blankets and abandon everything.

A friend recently told me that people overestimate what they can achieve in a day and underestimate what they can achieve in a month. With this in mind, I’m going to try to not overburden myself and instead do a little each day, to achieve bigger results in the long run.

It’s also common knowledge by now that it takes about 3 weeks to form a new habit and that it’s better to focus on creating one good habit at a time. So I’m going to create a “build-up” plan, taking one habit at a time and adding a new one after a month has passed. Hopefully this will prevent me from feeling overwhelmed.

So without further ado, I’d like to share with you my “bare-minimum” resolutions (i.e. what I’m going to do each day without exception and which shouldn’t be too challenging to keep up) and the good habits I’d like to integrate as the year progresses.

1. Bare-minimum resolutions
– 15 min of meditation: sitting somewhere quiet, gently letting go of my thoughts, breathing into my body, focussing on how I’m feeling and putting my hands on my heart and belly.
To ease my restless mind, I’d also take the time to note down any ideas or thoughts that seem really urgent, instead of fighting them.

– Carving out two hours of my day to do deep work on my thesis (i.e. with total focus)

– Jotting down at least one thing that went well for me each day and depositing it in my “Happiness Jar” (thanks to Elizabeth Gilbert for the idea).

2. Good habits waiting to be mastered by me
– Exercising 3 times a week (mix of running and Pilates) because I want a stronger, more healthy body

– Journalling at least 3 times a week

– Cooking more frequently and learning new recipes.

– Improving my French and Arabic, because they are beautiful languages and it would help me greatly in my search after a wonderful job after I’m graduated

– Meditating 30 minutes a day

– Keeping my bedroom tidy, because I deserve a space where I feel peaceful, relaxed and which reflects me completely.

– Studying for my theoretical exam so I can start practising to drive a car and get my driver’s license (I’ve been putting this off for years because ugh). I want to get my driver’s license so I can be more independent.

– Spending at least 20 minutes a day on writing poetry or fiction, because it makes me happy and fulfilled.

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Happy new year to you, dear reader. I wish you all the best for 2016 and may you find the courage and energy to stick to your resolutions and create a better life for yourself. May you also find infinite tenderness towards yourself when things didn’t go quite as planned.:)

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Can You Protect Your Heart From Bitterness?

heart and stonesIt’s so easy to become bitter and frustrated with the world. It’s easy to see the negative and to become cynical. Indeed, our society seems to wholly support people becoming cynical and pessimistic. When do you ever see positive, heart-warming news (outside of the holiday season) on TV? The puppy that has finally found a new, loving home is not going to appear as ‘breaking news’. That’s not sensational enough. And it’s not enough that we hear once a day about everything that’s going wrong in the world, no, it’s important that we hear about it every hour, so that we thoroughly realise that to feel safe in the world is an illusion. It’s all going to the dogs anyway, so why bother?

It’s harder to retain your childlike wonder about all the beauty and magnificence that this world has to offer. We see images of children drowning, but not of children being saved by loving, good people or by their own will to remain hopeful and to believe in a positive outcome for them. Of course, we shouldn’t go too far in the opposite direction and ignore the evil that human greediness and selfishness causes. But, there has to be some kind of balance! We need to address and feel our suffering (which is actually a powerful tool against becoming bitter and frustrated, which is all due to stagnated emotion that has nowhere to go). But we also need to learn to open our eyes to the incredible beauty around us. There is goodness in this world, there is hope and positive outcomes. Can we feed our starving soul by deliberately seeking beauty in literature, music, art, other people, spirituality and tales of happy endings, hope and empowerment?

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– Nayyirah Waheed

This is equally necessary to be a responsible citizen in this world: to believe that our green earth can be saved and that efforts toward creating a better world are worthwhile. To recognise that this childlike hope we naturally feel when we are little is being stamped out of us on a daily basis and labeled as ‘naive’, creating a sick and pessimistic society that is bringing our planet nearer and nearer to disastrous calamity. To resist this force-feeding of fear and lack and to cultivate what Elizabeth Gilbert calls ‘stubborn gladness’. It’s easy to give up and to curse the darkness. It’s much harder to light one small candle and to keep that candle lit no matter what comes on your way.

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My wish for this new year that awaits us is that we may all start our day with the intention of seeing goodness, love, beauty, kindness and hope wherever we go. That we may bravely face the darkness ahead, not by running away from it and burying our heads in the sand, but by feeling it and realising that it hasn’t killed us, that we are more than the lack, disillusionment and fear we feel, that there is always reason to hope and that we may protect this glimmer of hope fiercely, realising it’s our most valuable possession.

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Dear reader

breathe

 

When your eyes hoover over this piece of text, can you take this as a sign to remember your breath?

Can you let go for a moment of your story, of all the reasons why your life isn’t as it should be and just lean in to the present moment?

You are safe and held here. Can you feel that? Can you feel how your breath relaxes and deepens when you remember that you are here, that your worries are mere castles of air in the sky and that they dissolve once you tune into your breath and put a gentle stop to the treadmill of your ever-recycling thoughts?

Please take a moment to contemplate the miracle that your body is. You are alive, you are breathing, your heart is beating and this all happens for you, naturally. Life wants you here, wants you to survive and to thrive, wants to give you your best shot at a happy and healthy life.

When you think nobody loves or cares for you, remember your ever-faithful body, who fights for you every single second of the day, without pause. Can you take a moment to feel how much your body loves you and perhaps offer a few words of tenderness? Even if you are ill or in pain, can you consider the possibility that your body is doing the best it can and needs your attention, care and love now more than ever?

As Anne Frank said, could you take a moment to look at all the beauty still left around you and be content with that, for now, in this moment?

May your life be filled with blessing, radiant health and wholeness, wherever you go.

Revisiting ‘Love Actually’

a4790cdc65cc66522a024c2eddabf6e0Love Actually is the kind of movie I loved as a teenager: romantic, lots of handsome guys (hello Colin Firth and his warm puppy gazes), comedy and light-heartedness. I love feel-good movies, because I hate seeing people go through drama and pain, even if the people in question are fictional. That’s why my favourite movie is Pride & Prejudice: beautiful nature, beautiful music, beautiful dialogues, romantic Mr. Darcy who is smitten with Elizabeth, emotional growth of both characters, beautiful dresses and a happy ending!

Anyway, I digress. So on Christmas Eve, Love Actually was on and with crips and a christmas tree nearby, it seemed like the perfect thing to watch. I knew that I loved it when it first came out and was confident I would still love it. So, full of expectation and with a smile on my face, I let the story unfold.

Except… I didn’t like it! When the credits rolled, I was left with an empty and slightly annoyed feeling. I admit that there were scenes in the movie that didn’t seem entirely unbelievable and thoroughly moved me:

1) Karen just found out her husband had an affair and was listening to Joni Mitchell and crying. She only gave herself a few moments before she forced herself to stop crying and pretend everything is okay.
2) Sarah and her love for her brother
3) The funeral of Daniel’s wife. However, this story line was kind of ruined for me when Daniel met a new woman (Claudia Schiffer…because only models deserve love in this movie) only two or three weeks later and this was seen as healthy and entirely natural. Perhaps it’s part of a light-hearted movie that the trauma which happens to people is treated as a mere passing black cloud and people are back on their feet in no time. But it annoys the hell out of me.

So what bothered me so much about this movie that it left me feeling anything except good?

1) The persistent fat-shaming: hahaha, you’re fat. Hahaha, of course you’re unworthy of love and alone on Christmas. Hahaha, you’re pathetic and it’s so much fun to crack jokes about how fat you are. Hahaha, of course Colin Firth is horrified when Aurelia’s father thinks that he wants to marry her fat sister. Because, as we already established, she’s fat and doesn’t look like a bloody model and therefore she’s unworthy of love, single and her dad seems to hate her. Who cares about her personality, her dreams or what she does in life? Also, she seems entirely too wilful in contrast to the other demure and beautiful women who only live to please men.
Same with the ‘fat’ manager of Billy Mack. Hey, if I was twenty years older, I’d date him because he’s the most likeable man in this entire movie. He has a heart of gold. But no, because he doesn’t ‘look’ right, he’s treated as a loser who has no friends and is consistently referred to as ‘fat’ and ‘ugly’. Tell me again how any of this is funny?

2) The totally unbelievable love stories: I guess if you want to make a movie about so many people at once, you don’t really have time to develop a thoroughly believable bond between two people. Jamie has just been cheated on by his girlfriend and his own brother, runs off to France and finds love with his cleaning lady Aurelia, who is beautiful and doesn’t speak a word of English. But good communication doesn’t matter and he has seen enough of her during those few weeks to decide that he wants to marry her. I remember finding this incredibly romantic as a 13-year-old but now it left me completely untouched.
Same with Natalie and the prime minister. She looks good, they don’t have too many conversations and she, too, has a job serving him and those qualities seem irresistible to the men in this movie. Who needs feminism in this day and age?

3) Single = pathetic: Good-looking, worthy men and women don’t stay single for long. It doesn’t matter if they have been cheated on or their wife just died or they have been in an abusive relationship, they will find love again with other beautiful people. Someone will be there to ‘save’ them so they don’t have to think about what happened to them or take the time to process their emotions and grow. None of that silly-williness.
I admit, it might be because I’m single myself that I find this message so irksome.

4) Only models are worthy of love: I know, I know. I’ve already mentioned this point several times. And yes, it’s probably the hall-mark of romantic comedies and most movies for that matter that the leading characters (especially the women) are pretty. But it never has bugged me so much as now, when the movie begins and ends with shots of normal people embracing each other on the airport and when the movie deliberately makes a contrast between ‘good-looking’ people and those who don’t fit that rigid ideal. I find it insidious, like all the light-heartedness is just a glittery, superficial cover for something very disturbing that leaves a bad aftertaste for the ‘normal’ viewer. We have been so blinded by all the sick norms in society that we find it entertaining when a man or woman who’s not considered beautiful is made fun of. Never mind how the viewers who identify with that man or woman feel. Never mind your personality or values. Actually, maybe you should feel bad for looking like that. Maybe actually, you are deserving of insults and a life without love. Hahaha. How funny and light-hearted and cosy this movie is.

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