Good enough

One of the questions that everybody struggles with in their life, is: Am I good enough? Am I intelligent enough? Pretty enough? Tough enough? Am I a good enough mother or father? Am I good enough for that job?

We compare ourselves to others and start doubting ourselves. It keeps turning around in your head. Al those thoughts that try to convince you that other people are nicer, funnier, more intelligent and more interesting than you. We tend to think that other human beings are good enough. But don’t forget that you are a human begin too! Everyone – truly, everyone! – doubts themselves at one point or another.

Self-image

Our self-image is formed by our experiences with other people. If you have the experience that love is conditional, then you will think that completely normal. You think it is normal that you get attention if you get good grades in school. That you are rewarded when you do what is expected of you. Maybe you know that you will be ignored for a couple of hours or even days when you’ve done something wrong. Maybe you associate making a mistake with punishment or pain. You have learnt that if you are good enough, you will get the attention, love and appreciation that every human being longs for. All of this has consequences for your self-confidence and feelings of self-worth.

Familiar

In our relationships with family, friends, colleagues, our boss, and in romantic relationships, we look for things that feel familiar. For example, I had a few romantic relationships in which I often had the feeling that I was not good enough. Of course, this made me unhappy, so that I would get out of those relationships. But I kept making the same choices. Until I met someone who treated me as an equal and with respect. Someone who showed me that he really liked me and who didn’t play games to get my attention.

Protection

It took me a couple of years to be able to trust my partner and to show myself to him. I was so used to attention, love and appreciation being conditional, that I felt something was off. I didn’t believe he really loved me! So I started to sabotage this strange new relationship and I started testing my partner. Because I didn’t believe his love was real or that I was worthy of his love, without realizing it, I did everything I could to protect myself from pain and disappointment.

Luckily, this man – with whom I have been together now for sixteen years – did not get angry. He did not call me names and did not use my own words against me. He simply loves me. Unconditionally.

Do you get this feeling that you are not good enough? Do you sometimes doubt if your friends and family really love you? Do you often hear that critical voice in your head? Stop, and realize that your thoughts are nothing more than thoughts. It feels real, but it isn’t. It is your subconsciousness trying to protect you from disappointment, pain and sadness.

If you would like to talk about yourself and your life, and about what you would like to change, I invite you to book a free coaching conversation with me. You can find more information here.

Going with the Flow

From time to time, things do not turn out the way we want them to. In spite of all our planning and hard work, sometimes the result is quite different than we expected or hoped it would be.

When that happens, we often feel disappointed and discouraged. We are convinced that we did something wrong, that we should have gone about it differently. Or we put the blame on someone else or claim circumstances were much harder than promised or estimated.

Sometimes we feel like we are the only ones these things “happen to” and we say things like: “I am always the unlucky one” and “Why does this only happen to me?” We feel resistance or anger and try to hold on to the plans we made and the life we want to lead. We resist our disappointing and frustrating reality and take out our negative feelings on ourselves or others.


There is something we can do to make it easier to deal with disappointment, and that is to go with the flow of life. Some people think this means we should only be doing things that are fun, or that we should passively let circumstances direct our lives. We have certain ideas about how we should live, what our life should look like and how to make that happen. Surrendering to the flow of life is scary, because the outcome is uncertain.

For me, going with the flow means not resisting what comes your way and not trying to manipulate and control everything. Going with the flow requires self-awareness, attention and being present in the moment. Here is what you can do to be more in the flow.

Breathe and feel

Breathing consciously and calmly helps to quiet your mind and your body, and releases tension and resistance. Acknowledge your feelings. There is no shame in being angry or sad. (Read more about this in my blog on feelings.)

Reflection

Take a good look at yourself. Why are you feeling resistance and rejection to reality? Maybe you expect too much of yourself. What can you learn from this experience?

Acceptance

With acceptance I don’t mean giving up and calling it quits! Accept what you cannot change and try to find other options and alternatives. You may find there is an opportunity that you did not see before.

Let go

Let go of your expectations and thoughts about yourself and your life. Have a closer look at what life brings you.

It is helpful to know that there is very little we can do to control circumstances. And that you cannot change other people. What we can change is our own behaviour and our own way of thinking about people and situations.

I would love to hear your reaction on this topic. For example, what does going with the flow mean to you? Do you find it difficult to accept and let go of things? Would you like to learn to live in the moment, instead of worrying about what has been or what the future may bring?

If you would like to talk about yourself and your life, and about what you would like to change, I invite you to book a free coaching conversation with me.

You can find more information on my website www.luisabatista.com.

The Man of my Dreams

About 25 years ago, I met the man of my dreams. Sophisticated, six years older than me, with a good education, more than enough money, who owned his own business. And he liked me! He pampered me, put me on a pedestal and couldn’t spend one day without me. So it wasn’t long before I moved in with him.

Slowly but surely strange things came to light. For example, he had told me that he was from France (his last name sounded French). Later, I found out that he was born in Germany, where his whole family was still living. And there were more things, that I considered unimportant, that turned out to be untrue and that we would argue about.

He didn’t appreciate me confronting him with his little fibs. Whenever I tried to talk about something that was bothering me, he would turn the tables on me, and said I was imagining things, accused me of lying or claimed I was crazy.

He regularly let me know that he was ashamed of me. I talked too much, laughed too loudly about things that he didn’t think were funny, or accused me of making a fool of him. He also had a lot to say about my appearance: I was wearing too much makeup and my clothing was too flashy or unkempt, my breasts were too small, my bottom too big and my legs too short.

Every afternoon, he would ring me to tell me what time he would be home. About half an hour after the designated time, he would ring to say he was on his way, only to arrive hours later. He was manipulating me in this way, and I often found myself waiting in vain for him to be home for dinner while the food got cold. And if I had not picked up the phone, he demanded I tell him where I had been, with whom and why.

Like I said, he was romantic and sweet as well, but those moments became rare. He had told me about his terrible childhood with his father who used to abuse him. I thought my love could cure him of his need for other people’s approval and the importance of material goods and keeping up appearances.

A year after we met, we bought an old farm, and I was convinced that everything would change for the better. Nothing could have been further from the truth. I had sold my apartment and had reduced my working hours, and because I was now financially dependent on him, he thought he had complete control over me. During our first night in our new home, he frightened me in such a way, that the next day, as soon as he had left for work, I packed a bag and rang a friend to ask her to come and get me.

That didn’t mean my troubles were over. The relationship had a long financial aftermath. I had no money, no home and no furniture, only a couple of bags of clothing. In the space of one year, I moved from temporary bedsit to apartment to guest room eight times.

And then there was the emotional aftermath. How could I have let someone treat me this way? How could I have been so stupid? Didn’t I have any self-respect or feelings of self-worth? The answer is yes and no.

A relationship doesn’t turn into hell from one day to the next. It’s a process. And because I was living it, I wasn’t able to look at the situation from a distance. I was looking for love and stability. The things I accepted from this person and my role in the relationship had everything to do with my past and my self-image. And he used my vulnerabilities against me.

I do not blame him anymore. And I never thought he was a bad person. But I do not want to think about what may have motivated him. I am proud of myself and very happy that, in spite of not knowing what the future would bring, I decided to leave him. And I learnt a lot. Thanks to this relationship, I got to know myself better and started thinking about my own responsibility in relationships.

Do you recognize yourself in my story? Would you like some clarity or advice with regard to your relationship? Book a free powerful coaching conversation with me.

You can read more about me and about the help that I offer on my website.

Feeling your feelings

Generally, we try our hardest to push negative emotions aside as quickly as possible. We want to be happy and cheerful. In fact, we have to be happy and cheerful, because one can choose to be happy and nobody likes a whinger. And there’s always someone who will say: It could be worse!

When we experience negative emotions, we often blame someone else, or a situation, or we feel guilty, because, after all, we’ve got a good life. We don’t want to be afraid. We don’t want to be scared. We don’t want to be angry. We don’t want to be sad. So we distract ourself with food or drink or scrolling on social media, by arguing, by working, partying or working out even harder.

Eventually, we become so used to suppressing our emotions or blaming them on someone else, that we do not know if and what and why we feel, and why we do certain things.

It’s useful to know that our emotions are not caused by certain people or situations. If that were true, everyone would think and feel the same about certain situations and people. Our emotions arise from the thoughts we have about ourselves and the world around us. And that is what causes our behaviour.

Positive thoughts

In 2018 I was not doing well. I contacted a psychologist, forced myself to keep working, to work out, and do “fun” things, and I meditated daily. Whenever any bad memories and thoughts about certain experiences from the past came up, I did my best to get rid of them as quickly as possible. I tried to replace them with positive thoughts and to distract myself. Sometimes it worked, but only for a little while.

It came to a point where I felt so distraught and helpless, that I thought to myself: alright, then! I cannot feel any worse than I am feeling now! And instead of suppressing them as quickly as possible, I allowed my memories to surface. Instead of defusing them as quickly as I could, I allowed the feelings and emotions that come up to rush through my head and body.

Be kind to yourself

It sounds simple, and it was, actually. That doesn’t mean it was easy. It was quite frightening! But it didn’t take long for me to realize that I did not need to be afraid of my feelings and emotions. As soon as I stopped fighting them, the fear, anger, self-hatred, guilt and aversion ebbed away. And I learned to accept the past and myself without judgement.From that moment on, slowly but surely, I started to get better. I was able to enjoy life again and laugh at myself. I cannot change the past, but I found a way to let go of it. And I learned a lot. I live more mindfully now and I have gained more peace from regulary checking in with my feelings and looking for the reasons why I have certain feelings.

Check in with your feelings more often. And be kind to yourself and others.

About me…

My name is Luisa. I have got one daughter, and I live in central Portugal together with my husband and our 6 dogs and 2 cats.

I love vegan food and am allergic to chickpeas (I know! No more hummus for me…). I am a passionate and idealistic person, with both feet planted firmly on the ground. I used to feel angry and insecure and blamed others for my unhappiness. Now, I look at myself and the world in a different way, and am more in touch with my thoughts and emotions. And yes, I am happy!

I used to teach English, I translate books, I am a certified holistic coach. I have done all kinds of different studies and trainings: English, Yoga, Ayurveda, dance, plant-based cooking and more. Some of my hobbies are reading, crochet, cooking and making jewellery, and I love to binge watch series on Netflix. My favourite: La Casa de Papel (Money Heist). The book currently on my nightstand is The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I am a big fan of Stephen King.

Let’s go back in time for a bit…

I was born in Amsterdam on December 21, 1963, daughter of a Dutch mother and a Portuguese father. I spent my primary school years and the first year of my secondary school in Zaandam, a city about 25km north of Amsterdam. I have always loved to read, and I spent most of my free time reading books.

When I was 13, my mother and father got divorced. After my mother married again and had another daughter, my second sister, we moved to a small village in the south of the Netherlands where everything was different. I had to go to another school, where I had a hard time adjusting. I felt like an outsider.

From a very young age I thought of myself as stupid and ugly, which resulted in a long search for love and validation. So, for a large part of my life, all my decisions were guided by my romantic relationships.

When I was 32, my life seemed perfect on the outside: I was married and had a child, we owned our own home, and I had a job and an active social life. Then I started suffering from anxiety attacks. It was awful and scary… I didn’t understand what was happening to me or why! I was at a loss so I went looking for help. That was when I found out that I was far from happy. I didn’t know who I was and learned that I was living a life that I didn’t really want.

With the help of a psychologist, I managed to overcome this major life crisis. I became an English teacher and later went on to university. I met my now husband, became a Zumba instructor and yoga teacher. In 2012 we moved to Portugal, where we had bought a piece of land with a ruin. My husband built us a beautiful wooden home and we lived a quiet and secluded life.

On June 14, 2017, a fire started in the village where we lived. Everything that happened on that day and the following days, had a major impact on my life. You can read about the fire here.

Although our house, me and all our pets were unharmed and people around me even regarded me as a hero, I became depressed. I hated myself so much, that I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror. The fire worked like a catalyst and brought other traumas that I thought I had long since overcome, to come back up.

In October of 2017, we moved to England for one year, for my husband’s work. One day I found myself sitting on the bed staring into space. I felt empty and dead inside and wondered if there was any sense in continuing with my life. I don’t know how long I sat there. At some point I forced myself to get up, walk downstairs and went looking for help on the internet.

For a month, I sent long stories to a psychologist in the USA, contacted a gym where I then started working as a Zumba and yoga teacher and started a course in plant-based cooking. The psychologist said I suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder and survivor’s guilt. She also said that she couldn’t do anything for me, because I was already doing all the things I needed to do to overcome my problems.

With the help of dance, yoga, meditation and mindfulness – living mindfully – I managed to climb out of that deep dark place. It was a hard, painful and difficult journey. Not just for me, but for the people who love me as well.

In the last two years I have followed a number of courses and trainings and have developed my business. Apart from various yoga classes and meditation, I now offer coaching sessions as well. I decided to become a coach, because I want to help people who have been or have been through similar circumstances, to heal themselves, to become who they want to be and live a meaningful and happy life.

I get a lot of joy out of helping other people to get more out of themselves and their lives. And through my coaching sessions, I keep learning every day.

Meditation

Meditation is the act of giving your attention – being mindful – to only one thing.

A yoga asana practice, for example, is meditation in motion, where you focus on your breath and keeping a calm and steady mind during – sometimes challenging – asanas (poses) and the transitions between the asanas.

When we talk about meditation, we actually talk about concentration. You concentrate on one thing, for example the breath, in order to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state.

Classical meditation can be quite challenging. You want to find a comfortable seated position in which you can stay motionless for 5 minutes or more.

Now that in itself is hard enough. Many people find it almost impossible to just sit and do absolutely nothing. In this world we live in we are used to being bombarded constantly with all kinds of impressions, sounds and images. And whenever we have a silent moment, we turn to our smartphone or television for distraction. It is only when we sleep that we are free from stimuli, until the alarm clock sounds the beginning of another busy day.

And then suddenly you are supposed to concentrate on your breath and not think about anything?

I have heard people say: “But I cannot stop thinking!”

Of course you cannot stop thinking. Meditating is not about trying to stop your thoughts, but about not engaging with, responding or reacting to your thoughts. Whenever a thought comes up, you try to only observe it as if from a distance. You try to let go of anything and everything that might distract you from concentrating.

You may think this sounds like hard work and wonder why you should even try all this sitting still and doing nothing and concentrating on your breath.

Well, it has been proven that practising meditation comes with many benefits for your mental and physical health.

It balances the nervous system and helps you deal with stress. It helps you regulate your emotions. By meditating you also influence and change your brainwaves.

You must know that your brain is a powerful tool. Your brain’s mindset has great influence on your physical and mental wellbeing.

Meditation helps you to control your emotions and your mind. When you have (more) control of your mind, you have more control of your life. You become calmer, decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, increase your life span and the overall quality of your life.

Like most things in life, it takes practise to learn how to meditate.

Practise concentration and meditation will come.

Summer Solstice

Sunday, June 21, is the longest day of the year 2020.

On this day, the sun, the moon and the earth are in perfect alignment, creating an eclipse in some parts of the world.

The longest day of the year – the Summer Solstice – always occurs between June 20 and June 22, but the precise time shifts each year.

Solstice means: the sun standing stil. The Sun’s position in the sky at noon, does not change much during the days before, on and after the solstice.

For hundreds of years, cultures and people around the world have held celebrations during the solstice.

For many people the Summer Solstice marks a turning point in their life, as it marks the start of the summer season after spring.

In India, it is custom to honour the longest day of the year, by organizing yoga sessions to pay homage to the Sun God Surya.

Yoga is performed to gain strength, love, and happiness, and to correct past wrongdoings.

June 21 is also International Yoga Day!

If you missed my Summer Solstice meditation event, you can listen to the recording of the Summer Solstice meditation here.

Make sure you are in a room or area where you can sit comfortably, quietly and undisturbed, alone or together with other people, for 20 minutes.

Just Breathe!

Breathing is easy, right? It happens naturally and automatically.

But to some people, “just breathe” may sound easier than it is.

If you are anxious, if you have a cold or a respiratory disease or feel short of breath, breathing can be challenging.

Some people start taking big breaths to try and get more oxygen in and to get rid of the tight feeling in their chest and body.

Others start breathing faster.

Taking big breaths or breathing faster, though, is counterproductive.

When you take big breaths, you breathe out too much carbon dioxide. This causes blood vessels to constrict and reduces blood flow. As a consequence you get less oxygen!

When you breathe fast, you activate the sympathetic nervous system that makes your body go into fight or flight mode. This will make you (more) anxious!

What you should be doing is LSD!

No, not the drug…

You should practice Long, Slow, Diaphragmatic breathing.

But it is hard to slow down your breath when you are feeling breathless.

To get your breathing under control and train this LSD breathing, do the following:

Place your hands on your lower ribs.

Breathe in and out through the nose, into your belly. As you breathe in, you feel your ribs expand and coming out to the sides. As you breathe out, you feel your ribs contract and coming in again.

While continuing this diaphragmatic breathing, you practice short breath holds.

First, take an easy, normal, breath in and out through the nose.

Then stop breathing for 3, 4 or 5 slow counts.

Then take an easy breath in and out.

Again, take an easy breath in and out through the nose, and stop breathing for 3, 4 or 5 slow counts.

Do this three more times.

Don’t hold the breath for too long or you might lose control of your breathing.

Practicing this long, slow and diaphragmatic breathing, makes your breaths more efficient. The bloodflow and delivery of oxygen improves and feelings of anxiousness and short windedness will dissipate.

In my Hatha Yoga classes, we practice breathing exercises, like Kapala Bhati and Anulom Vilom.

During class, all movements and asanas (poses) are linked with the breath. Breathing calmly and evenly, while holding an asana comfortably and steadily, promotes mental and physical health.

You will feel calmer in daily life and it will become easier for you to control and come

back to your breath whenever you feel out of breath or anxious.

The Wonders of Yin Yoga

Yin Yoga

The explaining of yin yoga starts with explaining the meaning of the concepts yin and yang.

Almost everyone knows the yin and yang symbol, which is called the Tajitu.

It is made up of two halves that complement each other.

Black and white.

If yin is cold, then yang is hot. If yin is the moon, then yang is the sun. Neither is good or bad. They rely on each other and balance each other out.

The two halves are dynamic. Within yin there is some yang and vice versa.

 

Balance

Yin Yoga creates the perfect balance with yang excercises, like dancing, running or Vinyasa Yoga.

Yang exercises work on the sympathetic nervous system: the muscles. It encourages the body to go in fight or flight mode. In yang exercise all energy goes to the muscles because the sympathetic nervous system is activated.

In Hatha Yoga we do yin and yang poses: passive and active. Yang Yoga poses are active and all about creating opposition.

In Yin Yoga we go deeper. We surrender to the pose. We are passive, but still active. We practice mindful stretches at 80% of our capacity and hold each pose for 1 to 5 minutes. Range of motion and flexibility improve very quickly from practising Yin Yoga.

Yin Yoga stretches the connective tissues in the body. It is important to stretch these yin tissues, because it is the body’s structural system. Connective tissue is the most abundant tissue. It binds organs together and keeps them in place. Examples of connective tissue are fascia, ligaments, tendons and bones.

Yin Yoga works on the parasympathetic nervous system, the internal organs and the mind. It encourages the body and the mind to rest, digest and heal by improving the flow of chi: energy, prana or life force.

 

Healing in more ways than one

Yin Yoga poses work deep within the body, in connective tissues and organs where we may have stored memories and emotions, which can manifest as tension, stiffness and pain.

Not only does Yin Yoga improve the flow of chi to make physical healing possible, it also promotes loosening and release of those stored emotions.

By mindful stretching in Yin Yoga and turning our gaze inward while holding a pose, we heal ourselves in more than one way and attain more balance in our body and in our mind.

Those are the wonders of Yin Yoga.

Best Banana Bread Ever

During these past few months in Covid-19 isolation, I have been spending even more time in the kitchen than before. And I am not the only one. One of the things everybody seems to be making is Banana Bread.

I would like to share with you my recipe for the Best Banana Bread ever!

No added sugar, eggs, butter or lactose.

And no bananas! Just kidding…

My Banana Bread contains date paste instead of sugar. Date paste is lovely and sweet, and still contains all the goodness of the fruit, like fibers and vitamins.

Instead of date paste, you can of course just take a handful of dates and chop them into little pieces.

However, date paste is super easy to make.

Take one or two (or more!) handfuls of dates and soak them for 30 minutes or so in hot water that has been boiled. Drain most of the water. Then blend the dates, adding some boiled water to it if needed.

Use a couple of tablespoons of the date paste for the recipe and keep what’s left over in a container in the freezer. It will not become too hard, so you can scoop out some paste whenever you need it. You can add date paste to a bowl of yogurt or ice-cream. Or you can make more banana bread!

Ingredients

  • 200 grams flour – Take any flour you like. I use a mixture of wholegrain and spelt flour.
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese 5-spice mix, cinnamon or other spices you like
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 125 ml non-dairy milk
  • 2 large ripe bananas
  • 1 grated apple
  • 3 tablespoons date paste
  • 2 tablespoons of nut butter*)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • A generous amount of nuts, chocolate, or whatever you fancy. I use walnuts and sometimes dark chocolate chips (Liddl does a good inexpensive dark chocolate that does not contain milk)

*) If you do not want to use nut butter, you can use 2 tablespoons of coconut oil

Method

Mix the dry ingredients, including the nuts, in a big bowl.

In another bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Then add the grated apple and all the other wet ingredients.

Add the banana mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix well with a fork. The batter should be thick, but not too dry. Add a bit more milk if needed.

Pour the batter into a baking tray, lined with baking paper, or use paper muffin cups.

Bake at 180°C for 30 minutes (20 minutes for muffins) .

Then reduce heat to 160°C and bake for another 15 minutes (10 minutes for muffins).

Take from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes, before taking it out of the tray and placing it on a cooling rack.

Enjoy for breakfast or whenever you feel like having something sweet, with a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate!

Isn’t this the best banana bread ever? Let me know what you think!