Back to intuition

“The only real valuable thing is intuition.” – Albert Einstein

There are moments when we can hear it loud and clear, in our inner world. Yet, we don’t dare to follow it, we think that, “Maybe I’m wrong.” Then we regret it. What does it take from us to actually listen to our intuition?  

Reclaiming our gift

We were born with the gift of intuition, known also by the name of “gut feeling”. Both psychology and spirituality agree upon the effects that intuition has on our lives: it helps us, it improves our lives.

Carl Jung defined it as the perception of the unconscious. In his view, intuition is an irrational function that human beings possess and which, by an unconscious process, provides creative ideas and solutions to problems.

In books of spirituality, like Angela Artemis’s book, “The Intuition Principle: How to Attract the Life You Dream of “, intuition is defined as the higher type of knowledge which connects the earthly knowledge with God’s knowledge (called also Greater Intelligence knowledge). In other words, intuition is the knowledge which connects us to the source of life from where we came.

In light of my personal experiences, intuition is the inner voice that tells us what people and experiences are suitable for the harmonic growth of our true self.

No matter how we define it or what kind of role we assign to it, we know when we feel it.

Intuition can manifest itself in the form of pure joy when we are fulfilling our true destiny. For example, if someone offers us a job and we are overwhelmed with joy, then we know that our most reliable consultant, the intuition, has spoken to us. We want to take up that offer.

On the other hand, if we are hesitant about someone or something, then it may be better to avoid getting too involved.

Connecting to intuition is one thing, acting upon it is a totally different kettle of fish

In our house, the remote control is lost on a daily basis – my toddler likes to hide it each day in a different place. I like to let the intuition take me to the place where the remote control can be.

Every time, after a few moments of panic, I empty my mind and let the body be in charge. One day I found it in the cupboard, among the piles of dishes and pots.

Sometimes we choose to go against the intuition, relying more on other rational thoughts.

Last July, I rented my studio apartment to a 20-years-old man, despite my intuition. The first time I laid my eyes on him, my entire being screamed, “No! Don’t rent it to him!” Two months after signing the renting agreement, he stopped paying rent.

Six months passed before he was evicted from the flat. Ignoring my intuition, I offered to him free accommodation for half of a year.

In the blink of an eye, intuition informs us if a situation would be beneficial or unfavourable to us in time. It doesn’t take too long to let us know that we’ve just met the right person.

Yet, the people in our lives (who may have the best intentions at heart) and our own thoughts provide the background noise which makes some of us ignore the inner voice of intuition.

Learn to trust the intuition

The more information our brains absorb, the more infatuated we become about applying knowledge in our life. The inner voice of intuition is muffled.

We are taught that knowledge is power. Being well informed opens our mind to the world we live in. However, intuition gives us the eyes of wisdom to live meaningfully in any aspect of our life – love life, professional life, social life, spiritual life, etc.

Intuition may be patient with us, but once we choose to prioritise it over rational choices, it also requires some discipline from us:

  • to be aware of the inner voice.
  • to be brave to listen to it, to stick to it no matter what.
  • to be consistent and search for the opportunities that can lead to living genuine experiences.

We need to commit to our intuition if we want to live meaningfully.

What if intuition stops talking to us?

Tuning into our intuition is a life-term project. There are moments when it is silent and we may feel forsaken without it.

Yet, we need to relax. Let us meditate, if we have the chance. Let’s do things that we truly enjoy doing. Intuition will show up again, at the right time and place!

The day when we base our decisions on intuition, we open the door to authentic life experiences. Like other life experiences, there will be high and lows. Unlike other life experiences, there will be the joy of finally being able to discover ways of expressing our true self.

How about you, what do you rely mostly on intuition or reason when you make decisions in your life?

 

What is failure?

In order to achieve wealth, humankind invented the concept of performance. Charles Darwin’s theory on survival of the fittest is confirmed in everyday life when winners are loved, losers forgotten. Despite all this, with each omission of performance, we have the chance to discover what is truly important for us. 

The other side of performance

The Merriam-Webster dictionary says that failure is “omission of occurrence or performance.”. Already in kindergarten, we are introduced to the world of performance, when we recite poetry, dance and sing in front of the audience of parents.

Our taste for performance develops as we go through school. Yet, in school we are not taught how to cope with failure.

We are motivated with grades and praises to be successful. The top students are the favourites of teachers.

When we start our working life, the mere presence of our boss is a reminder that we are hired there to perform.

Choose any profession and you’ll have a set of performance measures assigned to it. For example, doctors can be assessed based on the number of patients. Researchers can be evaluated based on the number of publications and the quality of journals where they publish their work.

What happens if we fail to perform?

Whether we are fired or penalised for bad performance, we have the opportunity to look at life from a deeper perspective. Even those of us who perceive themselves as performers are not defined by performance.

Our identity does not need to be based on profession. We may need to reassess what we are good at, what motivates us, what makes us tick.

Performance may play its role in the evaluation of progress in economy but it should not be confused with Life.

We are human beings with amazing potential to express ourselves freely and creatively. For that, we need to get out of the way the obsession with performance.

In my personal dictionary, failure is the opportunity to get in touch with our intuition and start acting based on it.

 

Bye bye sufferance, welcome mindfulness!

Making changes in life is a complex process, which can cause lots of confusion. Mindfulness, the ability to focus on the present without being judgemental can help us manage the change in a healthier and more pleasant manner.

When we talk about change in personal life, mindfulness means mainly wrapping ourselves in the love inside and around us. At the same time, it is important to cultivate patience, courage and faith – pillars of mindfulness of change. 

What is the intuition telling you?

Now when the Spring is sheepishly showing its face, some of us can’t help paying attention to their inner voice which says, “A new stage of life transformation is waiting for you.”

It’s not the first life transformation you’re going through! Oh no! Your soul and mind remember how it is to be battered with self-doubt, insecurities and fear of failure. Agonising between the lows of disappointment and the highs of envisioned dreams, you may conclude, “Why bother! Life is good the way it is!”.

For some of us, life is good the way it is, and we are free to reply to our inner voice, “Why don’t you bugger off?”

Others say, “You know what, Inner Voice? This new life transformation is part of my destiny. Thank you for reminding me! ”

For once, we can make the change happen with less sufferance, and a more positive attitude to change.

Positive Attitude to Change

Love: Focusing on the love inside and around us is the anchor to the present.

Be present both with the body and soul to the dear ones who need us. Find creative ways of spending time together. Be receptive to their needs.

You may think you don’t have time. Well, think twice. Don’t underestimate the inspiration and creativity that spring from love.

Patience: Take the steps towards the new chapter in life, but do keep in mind that patience is a virtue. Be persistent and reassess your strategies.

Life transformation is a complex process that consists of different stages: hearing the inner call to change, searching for ways to make it happen, concrete actions, achievement.

Courage: Achievement means living the transformation. There is no such thing as failure. Each transformation brings us closer to who we really are.

The transformed life may not be the way we envisioned it, but it surely feels that’s the life we are meant to live.

Faith: Hold onto the belief that change has its own timing. Don’t be discouraged by the surrounding reality, which does not seem to point in the direction of change.

The way the first bird singing signals that Spring is around the corner, in the same way, the whisper of the inner voice shows that we will get all the help of the Universe to make the transformational stage happen.

Last but not least, take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the ride with all the bumps on the road! This is life!

Life as an Immigrant

Some of us are like the trees. They are born in a country where they grow roots. Others are like the river, flowing into foreign countries of great expectations.

We get enchanted by the idea of breaking free from whatever makes us feel imprisoned back home. We get lured by higher levels of income and more exciting careers paths. Yet, we may forget one aspect: living in another country shakes up the core of our being, identity and believes.

We have two alternatives: either live in continual rejection of the new environment or accept it. Accepting the new culture means finding ways of adopting some of the values that resonate in us and being aware of the differences. After living as a foreigner for more than ten years, I am still struggling to understand the way of interaction between people in the new country, as I write in the Expat View of the Helsinki Times.

Living in another country offers the opportunity to embrace spiritual growth. There are so many cultures around this globe, yet there is a common beginning and end for each life. As for myself, I never left from my home country, but then again, I never stayed either. I guess I am like a bird, migrating back and forth.

If We Only Gave a Chance to Spontaneity

As we get old, we lose the ability to react spontaneously to life circumstances. If we are the type of people who want to control their lives, we may not even have the desire to cultivate this ability. However, we may want to reconsider. Spontaneity may work wonders on our wellbeing.

Addicted to the agenda

Life gets better and then you die. As we grow older, we leave behind the insecurities and the lack of self-esteem. Well, at least we notice improvements in our inner lives as adults.

We are not fooling around anymore. Instead, we take pride in living according to tight schedules at work and in planning our free time. Has it happened to you to first grab your agenda when a friend asks to meet so that you can check when is the next free time slot? If yes, then it makes two of us!

We complain that life is routine while spontaneity is forgotten. A few days ago, a meeting was cancelled in the last minute. So there I was, panicking at my friend’s door, “What am I going to do now with two hours of no plans?!!”.

Stroke of inspiration

After taking a deep breath and counting to ten, I remembered about a time in my life when I loved to react spontaneously to circumstances. Spontaneity was fun! It was revealing sides of me I didn’t know I have! It was making me feel alive!

I wanted it back! So, I decided to walk back home, but on a route I hadn’t taken before. I looked at the buildings and nature covered by snow with different eyes. I searched for the beauty of the places that were unfolding. I let the sunshine cleanse my mind of the intoxication of the daily stress.

Life as an adult may be equally exciting as we dreamt of when we were kids if we allow ourselves a tiny bit of spontaneity. We’ll feel free to experience the life outside our agendas! We’ll feel adventurous to follow the inspiration of the moment!

Remember the childhood

Even if you prefer to plan your days, it probably does not hurt to reach into that exciting childhood memory where you had absolutely no clue on what was going to happen next. I believe it is worthwhile to go back to that moment and reclaim our power to be flexible to circumstances. Why is it worthwhile? Well, then, we can say that we lived intensely! And we maintain the sanity of our minds till we get old!

Inspired how to Connect with Others

According to Dalai Lama, connecting with others is a source of happiness (The Art of Happiness). However, practising how to connect with others in an unfriendly environment may turn out to be very difficult, sometimes we may be tempted to give up. When we become parents, it is very important how we behave with others. Our children are there watching and they’ll remember when they become adults.

Connecting with others in a foreign culture

For me, the need to connect with others is like the need to breathe air. Maybe I wouldn’t have realised this, if I hadn’t moved to another country. After years of introducing myself to others as a foreigner, I have understood the importance of connecting with others to my lasting happiness. The problem is that the local culture is not encouraging the small talk. I have felt like a Don Quijote of modern times when communicating with others. Day by day, my small world was built on the foundations laid by the interaction with the few work colleagues and the few friends.

I sank into emotional distance. I was weeping in my loneliness as a foreigner surrounded by locals who are fond of silence and personal independence. I became faithful participant to the gym with the hope that I would stumble upon some friendly others. In vain! Years passed by, and I felt emotionally handicapped. The friends that I saw once a months were not enough to satisfy the thirst of human intimacy and closeness.

Connecting with other mothers is important but equally hard as with the rest

Having a family in the new country gave meaning to life. It saved my emotional life. For a while, I was so in love that nothing mattered. Alas, one day when I was walking with my baby, I realised that the family does not replace the basic human need to be able to connect with others. Becoming a stay-at-home mother makes things worse.The social interactions are limited. The emotional distance that I felt before becomes even bigger.

Visiting the playground became the daily challenge to reach out to the other mothers. Unlike me, they seem to be self-sufficient in their small world. No eye to eye contact, not a polite smile.

My baby smiles and comes closer to other babies. He is puzzled by the lack of response and he looks back at me. I shrug my shoulders, “What can I tell him?”. After few seconds, he approaches again other babies. Again and again, until he finds one baby that reciprocates and they start playing.

When the inspiration stroke

One day, I decided to imitate my baby’s behaviour. I initiated the small talk. I started talking to other mothers at the playground. I pretended I don’t see their reluctance to talk and smiled back. Deep inside, I was infuriated. I considered buying plane tickets and fly us far away from the country. In that moment of fury, Dalai Lama’s wisdom seemed but an utopia.

Why bother to reach out when you seem to be  the only one doing it?

Connecting with others means tapping into our compassion and building the strong foundation which makes us human:

“And once you encourage the thought of compassion in your mind, once that thought becomes active, then your attitude towards others changes automatically. If you approach others with the thought of compassion, that will automatically reduce fear and allow an openness with other people. It creates a positive, friendly atmosphere…And with that attitude, even if other person is unfriendly or doesn’t respond to you in a positive way, then at least you’ve approached the person with a feeling of openness that gives you a certain flexibility and the freedom to change your approach as needed.” (Dalai Lama, The Art of Happiness)

To my mind, connecting with others is not only about being open or any other fear. It is also about knowing how to deal when you offer a part of you to someone who does not appreciate it. Here it is the point where we need to learn how to cultivate compassion and stay calm when confronted with unfriendly behaviours.

It’s worth to keep on fighting for connecting with others, despite their coldness and indifference. There are days that bring wonderful surprises. Some of the others reciprocate with friendliness and they share stories from their lives. I smile and I feel warmth. I feel human and energised.

A simple but friendly interaction can increase the daily happiness. My baby feels the positive vibes in the air as well. He continues playing happily.

Conclusion

When we become parents, we embrace the responsibility to be a role model for our children. Those of us who live in multicultural contexts, we want to show to our children that despite the multiculturalism where we may not always understand others, we can choose to relate to others as human beings, and not as national identities.

We want to expose our children to multicultural interactions. If others turn their back on us, we can explain to our children that it is OK to be sad.

It is not OK to become the centre of our sadness. Instead, we can try to relate to the unfriendly others at a human level, thinking that “She must have a bad day!”. Maybe tomorrow will bless us with a positive interaction.

The important lesson is to keep on practising our attitude to others on both occasions: when treated with friendliness and when treated with unfriendliness. It is a painful work, but it is one of the tickets to our lasting happiness! And an excellent example to our children!

 

What Does It Mean To Be a Parent?

Risking to enter the vegetative state?

Some people, like a former work colleague, do not even want to have children. This ex-colleague of mine believed that having children turns the parents into vegetative beings whose only role is to serve their offspring. I was quite taken aback when he stated his view.

For more than one year, I have experienced motherhood and continuous sleep deprivation. I must admit that there are days when I am in a vegetative state. But this mood is only the shell of my inner being. Deep inside, each day brings into light a new layer of the love I have for my little one. Furthermore, until now, I have figured out that parenthood is a mysterious journey, which can’t be anticipated.

What does love for our children mean?

It is easy to love my child when he smiles, when he is playful and funny. The challenge comes when he is cranky, whining, screaming and lying on the floor in protest – he has such behaviours even if he is only 15 months old. In those moments of “family crisis”, deep inside I love him equally and even more but at the surface, I am faced with negative emotions such as anger and irritation. And that’s when the challenge lies. Keeping the calm and finding ways out of these moments of crisis are must-to-develop skills for me and any other parent, most certainly.

We all want to bring up healthy, balanced and loving children, who have happy and meaningful lives. It is though so tempting to expect from our children to live the life we want them to live. And here, there is another challenge of parenthood: letting our children grow into adults and avoiding to burden them with our expectations.

My son’s uncle brings him toys and says, “He’ll be an engineer”. Sometimes I look at my son and I think, “He’ll be a dancer”. Few seconds after, I correct myself, “What are you thinking, woman? He’ll be whatever he wants to be.”

I don’t need to decide on his behalf what will make him happy. Instead, I need to make sure he is loved and we are present for him when he needs us.

Torn between love and setting limits

When he thinks he needs to climb on the kitchen cupboard, I say “No”, and he cries. It hurts so much more than I expected. But this is the journey of parenthood, rich in unexpected experiences and feelings.

A father’s confession

BTW. I stumbled upon a father’s confession about the inner changes that happened in him after his first baby was born. He realised that his individuality was turned into “duoviduality”: http://frankmartela.fi/2012/01/birth-of-a-child-or-when-you-expand-from-an-individual-into-a-duovidual/

It is revealing to hear some testimonials from the world of fathers in the Western societies as well.

So, Who Are You?

We are busy

Single people, people in relationships, people having a family – we buzz around all day long, in the pursuit of deeds that we perceive more or less meaningful.

Even the standard reply to the question “How are you?” has changed from “I am fine.” to “I am busy”. I wonder. Is it possible that we WANT to keep ourselves busy? Otherwise, how would we know what to do with ourselves? What thoughts and feelings would we have during half an hour of sitting in silence?

With whom to be better connected than with yourself?

When the evening comes and we put our head on the pillow, do we impersonate the wife, mother, student or subordinate that we were during daytime? Why not trying to find ourselves in the few minutes before sliding into the world of sleep?

What a treat at the end of the day, to reconnect to ourselves, to the joyous soul with which we came into this world! If we want to know why we came into this world, wouldn’t it be sensible to try to figure out who we were when we landed here? Who we were before we were damaged?

Maybe one night we get lucky and we feel our soul. We feel its core, its breath, and its wholeness. Who knows what else we would discover about who we truly are?

What if we don’t know how to reconnect to ourselves?

We need to look for help from the external environment so that we are put on the right track, which we would later follow on our own.

We need EXPOSURE. We need to start opening the channel that connects us to ourselves. For example, finding a group of people who are in a similar search and join them. Talk and discuss.

See the example of the Paphos Seminar, a one-week seminar on the psychology and philosophy of the good life, which has been organised twice a year for 18 years in Paphos, Cyprus by the philosopher Esa Saarinen (professor at Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland). The aim of the seminar is to help people “to construct their own ideas and to spread them internally”, “to open a broadband channel to people’ subjective sense of life orientation.” No ideas are imposed, simply a framework of philosophical ideas that offer food for thought. The participants are free to become emotional as they reflect upon different themes related to life, such as “present moment”, “love”, “choice” and “respect”. At the end of the seminar, each attendant discovers new insights into herself/himself.

The idea of this seminar can be replicated at a smaller case by you, me, by everyone. For example, how about gathering a group of friends with an interest in say, finding happiness, and discuss relevant books, every three months? (since we are busy people, maybe a more frequent interval for meetings is out of question.)

How about those ones of us who are too shy and too introvert for such sort of group activities? In this case, skipping the discussions and reading books on our own may equally help. Whatever works as long as we feel we have reached access the core of our souls.

Reflecting upon our life is enlightening the haze inside us. We don’t know why we are here but we should feel grateful for the life that was offered to us. Why not do the most with it and start by rescuing ourselves?

The Dormant Richness Inside Each One Of Us

Where does happiness come from?

“Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures that occur every day, than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom.”, Benjamin Franklin, the Founding Father of USA.

Most certainly, it is easy to agree with Benjamin Franklin’s view on happiness. We all have our small joys in life, such as watching a TV series or going to an ice-hockey game in the weekend. The problem is that we don’t perceive these small joys as real and long-lasting happiness. Instead, our minds are wired to chase the happiness, which comes from the “good fortune”. And this is how we go through life feeling empty, depressed, miserable, self-disillusioned and bitter.

The hope helps us survive the bottom line. We will be happy when we find love, when we get our dream job, when I get promoted, when we become a mother, when our sexual life gets better, when we are rich, after I divorce, etc. Yet, all these future expectations are beguiling and the very source of unhappiness. For example, if you do become rich, there will always be room for making more money. Therefore, the chase after happiness continues and the present is a struggle. Or, if you do get promoted, you may be disillusioned to realise that it is not bringing as much happiness as you expected.

Are there any chance for us human beings to be happy at certain points in our lifetime?

Research on happiness has flourished in the last ten years, offering to individuals self-help tips on how to find their own happiness. Here are few books, which I consider worthy of mentioning: Sonja Lyubormiski, The Myths of Happiness, and Robert Biswas-Diener and Ed Diener, Unlocking The Mysteries of Psychological Wealth. Scientific studies show that we can at least reach happy moods and irrespective of what causes these happy moods, they “lead people to be more productive, more likeable, more active, more healthy, more friendly, more helpful, more resilient, and more creative.” (Sonja Lyubomirsky, The How of Happiness, pp. 265)

Have you ever made this test to observe people from the distance? If you did, I am sure you agree that you can spot the unhappy ones by the way they carry themselves. Especially in the case of us women, the gloomy atmosphere in our minds reflects in our body movements.

Has it ever happened to you to adopt new ways of thinking for few days and think you are finally happy just before you slide back into the old way of viewing the world? Is sustainable happiness but an abstract concept that exists in the work of psychologists such as Sonja Lyubomirsky?

Can we reach a steady level of happiness?

How we relate to happiness differs from one individual to another, depending on our genetical heritage, our childhood and adulthood experiences. However, I strongly believe that we all can find our glimpses of long-lasting happiness by digging out the dusty characteristics which make us human.

Compassion, empathy, love, gratitude, altruism, soul-to-soul connection: they all live in us, the problem is that they have been forgotten. The age of science has brought wonderful advancements into the world at the cost of taking us away from who we really are: human beings.

If we want to be happy, we need to take a good look inside and cultivate the seeds of all these characteristics that make us human. Yes, it hurts when we feel that there is not love in our life. While we are waiting for love, we’d benefit from turning our face and soul towards the people around us and offer them the crumbles of love that there are in us. When we hear about a sick person who needs money for surgery, why not donating few euros from our income? Why not joining a group of people with similar interests?

Life happens now and we fool ourselves if we think we have control over it and we’ll be happy tomorrow. If we can control something, well that something is the humanity in us. The happiness will follow it.

 

I Dream of Seeing More Compassion

What Do Religions Teach us?

Compassion, the feeling of concern for other person’s wellbeing, is one the main teachings of buddhism. In his book, Becoming Enlightened, His Holiness Dalai Lama talks about engendering great compassion on way to enlightenment. He describes seven steps to committing yourself to help others, which revolve around the idea of teaching your mind to find everyone dear and cultivate love for human beings, such as the poor and vulnerable.

Christianity talks also about the compassion in the parable of the good Samaritan, told by Jesus in the New Testament. The Samaritan helps a traveller which had been beaten and left almost dead on the side of the road, whereas the priest who had first passed by avoided the injured man.

My Experiences

My mother has always told me to help people who are in need. She repeated this message so many times throughout my childhood that it became one of my fundamental believes.

At my grandfather’s funeral, a friend of his told me a story about grandfather. One night, the two of them were walking home. They met a stranger who was going to walk all the way to the next village. It was a cold night and grandfather offered his jacket to the stranger. He was quite close to his home and the stranger needed the jacket more than he did. I was very close to my late grandfather but he had never mentioned this story to me. I would have never known it if it hadn’t been for his friend.

Ever since I’ve been a mother, I became more aware about how people behave towards my baby and I. For example, for one year, I have been walking around pushing the pram and carrying the baby bag in my back. When entering the stores, I keep the door open with one hand and with the other hand, I hold onto the pram. People come in and out as if I were hired to be the doorwoman or as if I were invisible. Rarely, someone notices me and keeps the door open so that I can enter as well.

Other times, it happens that I have to stand in line for buying a train ticket, for example. With a 11kg baby in the arms, fighting to escape, I decide to go in front and ask for permission to buy the ticket. Most of the times, people look at me as if I were a strange creature, talking a language they don’t understand. Their facial expression says, “Why don’t you stand in line like the rest of us?”. There is usually one person in the line who shouts, “Let her pass, she has a baby, can’t you see?”

What Do Scientists Tell Us?

I’ve been wondering why do I see so few reflections of compassion in my every day life? Do people feel compassion at all? Or is compassion but a virtue set as an example – never to be attained by humans – in spiritual and religious books? Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher, thought of compassion as a “soft-heartedness and should not occur at all among human beings.” (http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_compassionate_instinct)

However, recent studies done by psychologists and neuroscientists show that Kant was not right in his judgement. Both the body and the brain seem to be wired so that we respond to other people suffering. Yet, feeling compassion is different from acting as a result of feeling.

Social researcher David DeSteno did an experiment which showed that people have the tendency to help others if they perceive some commonality with the person they decide to help (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/15/opinion/sunday/the-science-of-compassion.html). He concludes that compassion can be cultivated by changing the way we perceive the people around us: in terms of similarities. DeSteno’s finding confirms the first step to practising compassion recommended by Buddhist teachings:

“I have difficulty seeing any person in the long past who has not been your father, mother, uncle, aunt, sister, master, abbot, guru or guiding figure.” (Dalai Lama, Becoming Enlightened, pp. 166)

My Conclusion

In conclusion, compassion lives in all of us. It is a matter of being aware that it is in us, and to be willing to practice it and cultivate it. Next time when I keep the door open so that people can come in and out of the store, I will be saying out loud, “You’re welcome!”