“What do I want to do with my life?” To everyone with expectations: I’m sorry, I won’t climb a corporate ladder

“What do I want to do with my life?” To everyone with expectations: I’m sorry, I won’t climb a corporate ladder

Healthy mind Travel

I’ve always been struggling with the question ‘what do I want to do with my life’. Studying Social Work, Cultural Anthropology, Communication, Marketing, having different kinds of jobs, I was always in search of something. Now, after ten months of traveling (and 30 years), I finally have sort of an answer. I wouldn’t say it’s the perfect answer, but at least it’s an answer.

To all the people back home, who have expectations: I’m sorry, but I won’t climb any corporate ladder.

I’ve been in New Zealand for ten months now, leaving very very soon. Without doubt, I can say this has been one of the most valuable times of my life so far. With everything I’ve learned and changed, I know that it’s going to be even better. Did I answer the question “What do I want to do with my life?”, and how? Continue to read… Continue reading

Can Buddhism make you happy? What I learn from Buddhists in New Zealand

Can Buddhism make you happy? What I learn from Buddhists in New Zealand

Healthy mind

I’m an atheist and I always had a strong dislike towards religion. I don’t like the ‘this is how it is. If you don’t behave you go to hell’ stuff. Besides that, from my point of view, religion is one of the major causes of problems in the world. What about Buddhism?

Whether correct or not, I never categorised Buddhism as a religion, more as a spiritual way of life. Buddhists offer a practical path, to become completely and perfectly happy & free from suffering. Everything they do is focused on mind-training, gaining more focus, creating a positive mind. I like this. I’m a big Eckhart Tolle fan (I absolute recommend reading The Power of Now) and there are many similarities between Tolle’s perspective and Buddhism.

Chandrakirti meditation centre, a Buddhist centre in New Zealand
During my stay in New Zealand, I spend some time at a Buddhist Meditation Centre (Chandrakirti, in the Nelson area). I read some books about Buddhism and I’ve always been interested in becoming a Buddha (lol, I’m kidding, but Buddhism always fascinated me). This was my first actual experience with Buddhists.

In the centre, there lives a Geshe from Tibet, as well as a (Kiwi) nun. There are teachings, meditations, retreats and other events, like yoga retreats. I volunteered at this place. We worked for 4 hours a day. Every morning we did meditations with Youdon, the nun resident. 3 times a week, there was a teaching about a specific subject.

Buddhist Community New Zealand
What a lovely community, here at Chandrakirti

So what did I learn from Buddhists, and how can Buddhism make you a happier person?

  • Everybody is the same
    You probably think ‘bullshit, everybody is different’ and I can understand your reaction. What the Buddhists teached me is, that everybody is the same in the way that everybody wants to be happy and free from suffering. So in essence, everybody is the same. Everybody has the same wish. There is no-one in the world who doesn’t want to be happy and be free from suffering.

Why is this important? Because when you realise this when you are in a difficult situation with someone, it’s easier to feel compassion for the other person. The other person is working on being happy and free from suffering as well. Maybe not in the way you are, but he/she is. Nobody is behaving like an asshole while being happy. They behave like assholes because they are suffering.

  • Everything in life is cause —> effect, according to Buddhism. So create good causes!
    You are responsible for your own happiness. When you want a specific result, you need to create a specific cause. This sounds (and is) very logic (unless you say ‘if you kill a mosquito you will create bad karma and be unhappy’, like some fanatics would say). I would say it is more common sense, like this… When you want to be surrounded by happy, healthy people, you need to have a happy and healthy attitude, otherwise you won’t attract these people. When you kill, lie, gossip, you will attract people who do the same and as a result, be unhappy. (This is not exactly the Buddhist explanation, more my own point of view and experience).

When you are angry at someone, who suffers from the anger? Not, in particular, the other person. It’s you who feels the anger, who has a high heart rate, who feels like shit, right?

 

  • Nothing is permanent
    For Buddhists, it’s important to acknowledge the impermanence of things. When you realise that everything is impermanent, you have a totally different mindset. Everything is subject to change and alteration. For example.. A stranger is just a stranger, right? You don’t particularly care about that person. But when he does something nice for you, you suddenly like this person and maybe you even care. So your relationship to this person changes, sometimes very quickly. It also works the other way around. When your friend does many things you don’t like, you will, at some point, start to dislike that person. It’s not your friend anymore. Same happens in relationships. When you realise that nothing is permanent, you won’t be attached to things and feel more happy and free. This is a very complicated subject which I am still trying to understand better.

 

  • Friendships and relationships are more important than pride
    Many people, whether it’s couples or friends, argue about small stuff. Why do we always want to be right about everything? When you have an issue with a friend, partner or family member, think about what’s more important to you. Is it you being right, or your friendship/relationship? You may feel that you loose, when you ‘give in’ to an argument, but in the end you win (the relationship/friendship). Breathe in, breath out, and think about what’s really important. This can be really helpful.

 

  • Humour is very important in Buddhism
    Geshela (the Tibetan monk who’s living at the centre) was smiling and laughing all the time. It’s important to have a ‘light mind’, he said. Focus on love, joy, compassion, enthusiasm, and you’re life will be easier. Have fun, cut the crap. It can be that simple. You need to train your mind though. To develop this state of mind doesn’t ‘happen’ overnight.

 

  • You are not alone: everybody suffers
    Suffering is part of being human. Fear, jealousy, sadness, anger.. everybody has experienced it. Some more than others, depending on the causes you create of have created in the past, according to the Buddhists (I’m not sure what to think about this). Again, when you realise that everybody suffers, it’s easier to feel compassion. For example, for that homeless man on the street who looks angry, drunk and worthless to you. Or even for your friend, who doesn’t call you often enough. They also want to be happy and they suffer. Again, they don’t behave like assholes because they are happy. It’s always a reaction caused by some kind of suffering, according to Buddhism.

 

  • Thinking of others makes you happy
    Every morning, we did a meditation to set a positive motivation for the day. The main focus was this sentence: ‘May all my actions today, of my body and my speech, be only for the benefits of others’. This one is still a little tricky for me. During my burnout, I learned to put myself first, instead of others. I struggled with this sentence the first weeks. ‘How is it possible to benefit others, when you don’t take care of yourself?’, I thought. I misunderstood the concept. The focus of this sentence should be on ‘only for the benefit’, so it means not harming or disbenefit others. Buddhists see all sentient beings as the same. ’Others’ also includes yourself. So your actions (body & speech) should be positive, towards others and yourself. When doing this, you will feel happier. Trust me, I tried.

Last week I went to the library, which was located next to a school. I got the last parking spot, but when I saw a mother with three kids in the back, I asked her if she would like to have my spot. I could park on the street and walk a little, right? She was happy, and I was happy. I can’t exactly explain why, but it’s nice to put a smile on someones face. It didn’t cost me anything, except 5 minutes of walking.

  • Less self-cherishing, less wanting too much
    Geshela, the Tibetan Monk, kept repeating these two points. When you cherish yourself less, and when you want less, you’re going to be a happier person, is the Buddhist perspective. You will experience less suffering. Why? Because if you want too much, you suffer when you don’t get it. Whether you can’t afford it, or that person you’re in love with doesn’t love you back, you suffer when you don’t get what you want. Or you suffer when something breaks down, or when it gets stolen, when your relationship ends.

 

  • Everything you buy (own) is heavy on your shoulders
    Geshela said: ‘everything you buy.. that nice car, expensive watch, big house.. is something else that’s heavy on your shoulder.’. It makes sense.. When you have a big house, you have to pay for the mortgage. You have to work hard every day, and you might not even like your job. When you loose your job, you feel stressed, because you cannot pay for the house anymore. You can’t have the lifestyle you are used to anymore. When you use an expensive camera, and it starts to rain when you’re using it, you have stress because it might break down. When you have less, you have less stress. Now that I lived a minimalistic lifestyle in my van of a while, I can speak from experience, this is true. Having less will make you happier.

Are you convinced yet, that Buddhism can help us Westerners? 😉

It’s a lot to take in, I get it. But believe me, when you even start to understand a glimpse of the Buddhist philosophy, you will become a happier, lighter person. Who doesn’t want a life without feelings like greed, jealousy, fear, and anger?

Do you have to become a Buddhist to become happy?

Of course not, you silly! I’m not a Jehovah witnesses. And I think Buddhists will never try to convert you. It’s not like Christianity. But you can learn a lot from Buddhist, like I did.

So I would stay, when you’re convinced that this may help you to feel happier… Read a Buddhist book or visit a Buddhist place some time. Or start reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I promise this will be the best money you’ll ever spend. Don’t read it ones, put it on your bedside table and read it again and again. I can promise you that it will help. You don’t have to become a Buddhist. I’m not a Buddhist. But I definitely benefit from what I’ve learned.

I can also highly recommend this Buddhist book, based on neuroscience:

Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson (free shipping when you buy today or tomorrow, via this link)

Do not take my words too seriously. I’m not a Buddhist. I just write from my experience. If you would like to know more, as I said, start reading, or go to a Buddhist Centre. Nevertheless.. Comments are more then welcome!

Let me know what you think, and I hope to see you back here 🙂

(Many thanks to Chandrakirti.. mostly to Youdon, Geshela, Philippa and everyone I met there. You are the best. :))

 

Read more about:

Eckart Tolle, author of The Power of Now

The Buddhist meditation centre in New Zealand, where I had all these insights)

The neuroscience of lasting happiness

Gluten free recipe; delicious spinach patties (also vegan). ENJOY

Gluten free recipe; delicious spinach patties (also vegan). ENJOY

Gluten free Healthy body Healthy mind

I never thought that gluten free and vegan cooking would be so easy. It is, and would like to share this super easy gluten free recipe. (serves 4, cooking time 20 minutes)



I used to be the worst cook ever, now I make gluten free, vegan stuff. HOW?

In the Netherlands, my friends always kindly said: ‘oh no José, you don’t have to cook, because I really like to cook. Just sit down and relax. Or cut this carrot.’.

I got the message.. I can’t cook. I’m terrible. Because my friends never let me practise, I stayed the worst cook ever. Thanks friends 😛

Then I traveled to New Zealand, I had to cook, because I was Couchsurfing. When you are Couchsurfing (staying at someones place for free) you want to give something back. And so I cooked…

Couchsurfing: one person doesn’t eat gluten, the other is vegetarian, and number 3 is vegan. Ok. Why not?

I was staying at this amazing place in Christchurch. John had 4 guests, beside me. Ok… this is going to be a challenge, I thought.

One. I have to cook.

Two. It has to be vegan

Three. it needs to be gluten free.

I won’t go into details and I’m not going to tell you what the kitchen looked like after I managed to put 12 delicious spinach patties on the table. Just follow the recipe…

Spinach Patties; Vegan & gluten free recipe

Ingredients (serves 4, cooked in 20 minutes)

  • 300 gr chickpeas
  • 1 big onion
  • 100 gr fresh spinach
  • 2 spoons of olive oil
  • 2 spoons of fresh oregano
  • 2 spoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons of paprika powder
  • 1 teaspoon of chili powder
  • 4 spoons of sunflower seeds
  • 2 spoons of pumpkinseeds
  • 2 spoons of chia seeds in water (or 2 eggs, when you’re not vegan)
  • 100 gr of gluten free flower
  • 100 gr of sesame seeds
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 spoon of sugar if you like (I didn’t use sugar)





Method

  1. Mix 2 teaspoons of chia seeds with water (you use this mixture instead of eggs)
  2. Grind the chickpeas and onion roughly in a food processor
  3. Add the spinach, olive oil, soy sauce, (sugar), herbs and seeds and mix them in a food processor
  4. Add the flower, sesame seeds and chia seeds (they now have a similar substance as an egg)
  5. Season with salt and pepper
  6. Remove the blade from the food processor, wet your hands and make the patties
  7. Bake them in a pan with some oil until they turn golden brown.

BON APETIT, or as we would say in the Netherlands… EET SMAKELIJK!

Vegan, gluten free recipe, spinach patties while Couchsurfing
Couchsurfing at Johns place in Christchurch, where I made this recipe for the first time
Vitamins for ADHD – Vitamins can be a good substitute for ADD/ADHD medication

Vitamins for ADHD – Vitamins can be a good substitute for ADD/ADHD medication

ADHD/ADD Healthy body Healthy mind

From the moment I found out I had ADD, I wanted to find a more natural solution than medication. I read a lot about nutrition, vitamins for ADHD/ADD, so I wanted to try vitamin supplements. My doctor didn’t agree. Vitamins can be dangerous, she said, and there was no proof that it works. A year later, I (always been a bit of a rebel) tried. Can vitamins be a substitute for medication for ADHD/ADD? You’re about to find out 🙂

Note: I’m not a medical specialist, doctor or dietician. I write from my own experience.

I was using AD(H)D medication for a year





I got the diagnose ADD when I was 28, during my burnout. Immediately, I started with therapy. I was really impressed by the quality of this ADHD centre, and they suggested me to use medication. My first response was ‘no way, I’m nog going to use medication for the rest of my life’. I hate medication. It’s unnatural, and most of the times they don’t know much about the long term effects. I immediately thought of solutions like diet or vitamins for ADHD, but I wanted to listen tot the professionals for a change.
One of my best friends, who’s a doctor and who’m I really trust, said I should give it a try. I was really happy about the help I got at the ADHD centre and I was kind of desperate at that time, so because of those two, I decided to give it a try. Also, I was really curious how other people, without ADD/ADHD feel. Can it changed your life completely, as I had heard people say?

Dex methylphenidad Retard, Ritalin, Dexamphetamine.

I remember the first time using Dex Methylphenidad Retard. At that time, I was dog sitting. After taking the first pill, I took the dog for a walk. I looked at the trees and they were so bright, so green, so sharp. My focus was absolutely amazing. Everything was beautiful. My first car-ride was awesome too. I drove to school, as I did twice a week. Many things I saw on the road were new to me. That was so weird, but astounding.

So this is how ‘normal people’, without ADD feel? WOW!

The first weeks of using medication were amazing. I was working on my thesis at that time. And wow, I could focus for longer than 5 minutes. It was so easy to organise all the data that I collected. My house was tidy, I had so much energy, I knew where my stuff was. Another great benefit was the fact that I could be in a crowded space (festivals or birthday party’s) without the feeling I wanted to run away. Normally, I was exhausted after a social event with lots of people. My energy was gone. Not with medication. It was easy. I could participate in conversations without my mind wandering off, or while hearing 4 conversations at the same time.

The side effects of ADHD medication that I experienced

You’re probably wondering ‘why did she use so many types of medication, when it worked so well?’
Well… It was great in the beginning. The side effects weren’t so bad the first weeks. I had a dry mouth, a dry skin and not much apetite. That was it. It was worth it.




After a few weeks, the really bad side effects came. With some types of medication I had extreme rebounds (mostly with Ritalin). That means that when, after a few hours, the medication got out of my system, the ADD symptoms became double as bad as they are without medication. I had a high hart rate, was extremely anxious or just pissed off. Everything was blur. I got a bit of a fever. I couldn’t do much for about half an hour, besides lying on the couch feeling miserable. When that happens every day, it sucks.

White poo, ‘I don’t care about whatever’ and blackouts because of the ADHD medication.

Dexmethylphenidad Retard got to my liver, up to the point where my poo was white. And I lost weight. I only used Dexamphetamine for about two weeks, because it made me feel like ‘I don’t care about anything’. In traffic I didn’t care about other people on the road or about traffic lights. I didn’t feel happy, I didn’t feel sad. I just didn’t care. At one point, I had a complete blackout. I was in the train, at a station where I wasn’t suppose to be. I don’t know what happened or how I got there. The next day, my doctor told me to reduce the dose. I told her I wanted to stop. It wasn’t me anymore.

I decided to stop using ADD/ADHD medication

After a year, The ADHD centre ‘released me’ because I learned enough. At the last session with the doctor I told her I decided I wanted to stop using meds. After trying 4 types of medication over the year, I was at a point where I didn’t recognise myself anymore. Where was my creativity? I wasn’t spontaneous anymore, lost my creativity and didn’t enjoy the things I enjoyed before, like playing music. My body felt week, I wasn’t fit like I used to be.

Let me state this: though I personally disagree with the way in which doctors describe medicine so easily and quickly, I’m really happy for the people who do feel good while using those meds. It’s just not for me.

After I stopped using ADD medication. The ‘Oh crap, I really miss the benefits of the medication’-stage

The first weeks without meds were okay. Probably, there were still some after effects. After a few weeks, I was back where I was before the meds. It was weird, I’d forgot how I felt without medication. It was terrible, I was totally upset. What to do? I don’t want to use that sh*t anymore, but I don’t want to feel like this either.

Google, your friend in need

In the Netherlands, there’s a diet for kids with ADHD. I heard about that and thought well, when it works for kids, why not try it out for myself. Unfortunately, the insurance companies don’t pay for ADHD solutions based on diet for adults, and since I had no job, I had to find a cheap solution. There must be other people struggling with this, I thought, so I tried Google.

New Zealand research about vitamins for ADHD

A New Zealand research came up in the results, which showed results in where people with ADHD or ADD had good results using vitamins. ‘More research was needed’, but I didn’t care. I gave it a try. I thought, budgetwise, let’s start with only a few. So I start using:

This was about 9 months ago. I was ‘house-sitting’ (taking care of my sister and her boyfriends cat) and writing another thesis, this time for the online marketing course I was following. Their neighbours were really loud.. kids, music. I couldn’t focus. I had no energy.

After only a few days of using vitamins, among which Omega 3, B12 and Zinc, I already felt the difference.
The vitamins made me more clear in my head. The neighbours didn’t bother me anymore and I could focus on my thesis.

So, do vitamins for ADHD work?

I’m taking the vitamins for about 9 months now, longer than I stopped eating Gluten, as I wrote in my previous post. For me, it makes a huge difference if I take them or not. I have way more energy and focus. My head is more clear. My concentration improves, and because of that I don’t lose my stuff, I can be in crowded spaces, I’m more organised, and so forth… I wouldn’t say they give me the same results as the medication like Ritalin, but about 80-90% of it, and without side effects. I would recommend using vitamins for ADHD.

More research about vitamins for ADHD?

Scientists, pharmacy and doctors would say: ‘There’s not enough research to state that vitamins can help reduce ADHD symptoms’. They might even say that it’s not healthy to take vitamin supplements.

I’m surprised that there’s not a lot of research published or even done in the field of vitamins for ADHD. But on the other side, it doesn’t surprise me. Because who would benefit from this? Not the pharmaceutical industry, who are mostly the sponsor for medical research and who supply the medication.

What’s your story? Would you try vitamins, to help reduce ADHD symptoms?

I would love to hear your experience, so please share your story below! There’s so much information about ADHD, ADD, medication and natural solutions. Let’s help each other make the most out of our life with ADHD or ADD.

If you would like to try vitamin supplements for ADHD, this is what I’m using:

Note: buying cheap vitamins might not be the best choice, because your body can’t always absorb it or it contains things that are unhealthy. During my burn out I went to a doctor who not only studied medicine, but on top of that alternative medicine. He recommended the brand Lamberts. 

ADHD medication substitute vitamin supplements magnesium