HSP: listen to audiobooks and 5 book tips

A couple of months ago I started listening to audiobooks. First I downloaded them from YouTube, now I listen to them via www.storytel.nl. This is a Dutch audiobook provider with a nice collection of Dutch and English books. My motivation to start listening to audiobooks was a practical one, I found it much easier to listen in stead of holding a book in my hands above a big pregnant belly. Along the way I experienced some benefits from listening to an audiobook and I would like to share this with my crowd of highly sensitive people.

  1. While listening I rested my eyes. After a days work using my eyes in an intensive way while guiding people or writing coaching reports, blogs and other stuff behind the laptop it feels relaxing to be able to enjoy a book without using my sight.
  2. I love language and accents. What I noticed while listening to the collection of Storytel, the books were told by a person who spoke in the accent of the country the story was situated in. Fantastic. This made the story and their characters   even more realistic. In some books I heard several accents because the story travelled to different places. So listening to an audiobook fed my language listening skills
  3. What I also liked about how the audiobook was read, was the way the voice interpreted different scenes. There was actually some acting in it which made it come across like a detailed movie from which the images were created by myself.
  4. To me listening to an audiobook just before sleeping in was a wonderful experience. You can listen to the audiobook in the dark while laying still. I have a feeling this makes it easier to fall asleep, because your body and sight are already resting. To be honest I can’t really compare it to reading in bed, because I wasn’t doing this previous to listening to an audiobook.

Five book tips

1. The Hundred-Foot Journey, Richard C. Morais

I loved this book. It was read by a man with an Indian accent and he could do other accents too. The story narrates about an Indian family who emigrates to England for two years after a shocking and sad family experience. After England the father of Hassan; the main character, decided to move to a small village named Lumiére. There they set up an Indian restaurant just across a French two star Michelin restaurant managed by madame Mallory. She isn’t happy with their arrival and from there on many funny and interesting cultural twists appear in the story. The story appealed to me because I have been raised in a Chinese family which revolved around food. Furthermore the cultural clashes also reminded me of my own experiences!

2. The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion

What I find most amusing about listening to audiobooks is that the story is narrated by someone who speaks with the accent of where the story is played out. The Rosie Project is read by a man with an Australian accent, because the main character lives and works in Melbourne. I have had some good laughs while listening to this story. It’s about the 39 year old Don Tillman who works as an associate professor in genetetics. He has Asperger.

The story is told by Don and when he speaks it rains facts, theories and detailed narrations. I was particularly fascinated by they way he behaves because I am more like Rosie, an emotional human being. I learned a lot about the human psyche when it comes to living a life with Asperger. Even though he rationalizes his whole life and behavioural actions he does have emotions. Through his contact with Rosie he discovers and learns more and more about human interaction and emotions. In a subtle way I saw him emotionally grow.

The story inspired me to go on and listen to the sequel: The Rosie Effect.

3. The Rosie Effect, Graeme Simsion

This book is as hilarious as the first book. Especially because of the immense contrast between a highly emotional ‘project’ which is Rosie being unplanned pregnant and Don Tillman’s rational and technical approach to it. Besides many loud laughters I found it helpful as well, because of the information shared on being pregnant.

4. Dear Fatty, Dawn French

This book is by Dawn French. She is a Welsh comedian, actress and writer. I was drawn to this book because of its expected humorous contents. In 2009 I took a course in provocative coaching. Since then I have been interested in exploring the world of humor more, but didn’t find the time. It was simply not a priority. End of last year it became clear that my husband wanted to be a stand-up comedian. It took him some months to realise he is better off as an allround comediant and actor. It’s because of our mutual interest in comedy that I chose to listen to this book. And indeed, it was hilarious, but also serious, honest and moving. Her story about being fat, positive sides of being big breasted, how an ex-boyfriend had treated her and her many letters to her father made it interesting to listen on. Afterwards I read about her on Wikipedia and discovered she divorced Lenny Henry in 2010 after 25 years of marriage. I believe this book proves that they have separated in an amical way. The book includes a detailed super love letter directed to Lenny.

5. Blissful Birth, Janey Lee Grace and Glenn Harrold

This audiobook was very helpful, because my baby could announce his arrival any time now. The first half an hour Janey talks about how to mentally and physically prepare yourself for giving birth. She also gives tips on how to manage contractions during labour. She finishes off with tips on how to recover from giving birth. As a mom of four children and having given birth in a natural way she has lots of experience to share. The book also contains two hypnotherapy sessions; one to prepare yourself for labouring and one to recover from giving birth. Both take half an hour. First time I listened to the session which prepares me for labouring I fell asleep while listening. Janey mentioned this wouldn’t be a problem, because my subconscious would integrate the information.

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HSP: my sense of taste

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Next to life coaching one of my great passions is food. I adore the colors, textures and flavors of food. I also love all kinds of combinations of flavors, varying from sweet and sour to sweet and savory, spicy and pickled. I have a tendency to strong flavors, but definitely appreciate natural flavors of the different carrots roasted in the oven just like in the photo above.

Being a highly sensitive person my sense of taste is the one of all senses which gives me lots of joy. My cultural background, coming from a Chinese family, had a great influence on my tasting buds. I grew up with natural sugars from sugar cane, dates, a wide range of fruits and dried fruits. My knowledge of candy was very poor! Furthermore I grew up in the restaurant of my grandparents in Amsterdam. The suppliers delivered the best meat, fish, chicken, vegetables and fruits. Every day our dinner consisted of at least six dishes. So I may conclude that I have a well-developed palate. I must say we were spoilt! After a schools day my grandfather always came downstairs to ask what we felt like eating. This was around 3.30pm. Dinner was at 8pm after most of the restaurant guest had gone.

I do believe my upbringing has a lot to do with how I experience food. Strolling around markets with family who exactly know the difference between good and bad food helped me develop my eye and taste for good food. There is another detail which could be described as a highly sensitive trait, but I would rather think it’s because of my cultural background. It’s when I eat I am with my food, it’s like I become one with the food I am eating. I don’t talk, but dive into the smells, flavors and textures of the food. If you would like to converse you need to catch my attention first. During dinner my family spoke only of the food we ate or we were silence. As kids we didn’t converse with the adults around the table. That’s why I naturally don’t speak much during dinner.

I must say I act this way around people I feel most comfortable with. When I am having a business lunch or dinner and the focus of the appointment is sharing information or getting to known each other I don’t take as much time for the food as I like too. Afterwards I regret the fact that I didn’t taste and enjoy my food fully, because I had to focus on the talking! Multi-tasking in relationship with my tasting buds is not one of my strongest skills.

By Chungmei Cheng of Orchid of Life ~ Life Coaching

HSP: what are your plans for Christmas and New Year’s eve?

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As a coach for highly sensitive people lots of stories about Christmas and New Year’s eve come my way. Most of the highly sensitive people I speak rather spend their time quietly with a few friends or in some situations only with their spouse, love relationship and kids in stead of packing stuff, organizing big dinners and traveling from one family to another with two days. (Christmas) And as for New Year’s eve, in the Netherlands it is the tradition to set of fireworks up until late, go out until late and the next morning you possibly catch yourself with a hangover and a huge lack of energy. This feeling of being totally wasted could go on for days so the people I speak to ask themselves: 

‘What do I want to do, how shall I organize this and most importantly, how will I communicate this to my spouse or family?’ 

Yesterday I gave a lecture about high sensitivity with professional and personal relationships. This same topic arose and conclusion was that it is most important to listen and finally act upon your own needs. The difficulty lies in the fact that we are so accostumed to do what others want and expect from us. (or read: to do what the group/family wants) In many cultures it is a tradition to spend time with your loved ones during these festive days, but all I hear about is lots of family stress. I understand it is very hard to break with family and cultural traditions just for your own sake. 

How wonderful it would be if we could choose for what we most want to do during these days? Before having this as an option in mind, one needs to tackle lots of emotions. Emotions such as guilt, anger or even family member blaming you for not coming to the gathering. Year in, year out, you feel horrible, and perhaps this comment rings a bell ‘this year I will stay at home’, but to find yourself each year in homes of other family’s or family at your place, because the motivation to choose for what you want somehow disappears. Days after the social activities you feel exhausted of all the conversations, impulses and possibly excessive amounts of food. 

What if, after years of struggling, with the December month turning around the corner, you consider, just slightly consider to do what you want. What ideas would pop up? With whom would you spend these festive days? How will you go about communicating this to your family? Think about it, it could definitely free your mind and body and take you up to a higher level of excepting and acting up to your own needs. The positive effect about this is when you feel well and good about yourself you could mean much more to others. This doesn’t only go up for festive days, it’s a daily positive life attitude. Many highly sensitive people regard doing something for themselves as ‘egoistic’. No way, it is super healthy to put your own needs first and in my view of life this naturally goes with healthy relationships, either professionally or personally. 

As a Chinese born in the Netherlands I never had a relationship with Christmas. These days were focussed on work and serving others Chinese food from out of the restaurant of my parents. And as for New Year’s eve, this meant being with lots of Chinese family living in the Netherlands, most of them had restaurants so lots of good food was served. Whole evening went to spending time with cousins and grown-ups talking and playing games. Chinese tradition of setting of fireworks did go hand in hand with Dutch culture’s fireworks at 0.00am 1st of January with a huge difference, Chinese fireworks was all about banging our ears of whereas most Dutch fireworks were about beautiful colors and figures whirling up into the sky. 

Somehow I feel lucky to not have any traditions in relationship to Christmas, it seemingly makes it easier to choose for what we want to do. But even so there are some family expectations to tackle. Even without a religious link to it family wonders what we will be doing around that time of year. Or perhaps it’s even more so the case that it’s more about me, somehow I feel compelled to share what we will do, in other words, we would like to spend time here at home in stead of visiting you, you and you. And as for New Year’s eve, to be honest, I have never been into fireworks. This year we decided upon spending time somewhere where it is fireworks free. Hmmm..this is quite a challenge, but we will find a place. I am sure of that. Where there is a will, there is a way. 

Life Coaching: honoring my Chinese background

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Looking at this photo I see myself, a person with a Chinese background, born and raised in the Netherlands. My Spanish is far better than the Wen show dialect I understand and the few words and expressions I know in Mandarin. It’s just who I am.

What I have learned from my Chinese family

1. To cook and appreciate food
2. When family and friends come over we offer them food and when we pay a visit we bring food
3. When family and friends need financial help, we help them
4. Hard work pays off
5. Entrepreneurial mindset: be kind, respect, ask for what you want and give
6. Family ties go way back
7. Good health can be supported by massage, herbs (all natural medicine) and acupuncture
8. Understanding relationships in social cultures

Organizing first party in years

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So yes, finally, after 4.5 years we’ve organized a party at our home. And we’re damn proud we did a great job. Our daughter Amé turned 3 years old and I was determined to organize a birthday party for her. She loves birthday parties, cakes, ice cream and presents so I wanted to make her heart sing with joy. My partner and father of Amé has been out of the party game for three years now. He is still suffering a continuous headache. Anyhow, let’s focus on the party joy.

Our daughter wasn’t able to rest the whole morning so when the party was about to start she went to bed to take a nap. Hearing the noises of the first guests she yelled out for mommy. Miss party girl wanted to go downstairs. The kids were having so much water fun. They started out on the balcony playing with boats. After the singing and eating the birthday cake we moved to a communal garden. There the water joy went on with water guns; shooting water is fun for everyone, young and the somewhat older guests.

While a group of guests were playing in the communal garden my mom and sister were preparing the food. I invited everyone like two months before, but only one week before the party my mom phoned me asking me what I had prepared. Well, mom, I will prepare different cakes, ice cream and the activities for the children. ‘And the food, what about the food? she asked. You must feed the family coming from a far. You should send them home well fed. That’s how it goes. I will help you.’ But mom…all my ‘but’s disappeared with the air I exhaled. ‘I will prepare a very simple dish, it’s ok, I will manage.’ She didn’t even tell me what she would prepare and I didn’t even bother to ask her, because I knew she wouldn’t tell me.

We had chicken à la mama style (Chinese) and several vegetable dishes going along with that; carrot, mushrooms, tomatoes and string beans. As a dessert we served homemade banana chocolate ice cream on a stick. After having finished their meal the kids went on playing with the presents. Blowing bubbles was the last outside activity. Even though I prepared the activity by buying the goods the kids initiated it on the balcony. Where was I? I believe I was eating and enjoying my meal, my rest. Talk about rest. I rested two full days after the party, highly sensitive as I am.

I loved the presence of family and friends. My partner and I agreed to do this more often. Perhaps not on this scale, but just to bring people together, reconnect and have fun. On a food note: there was no candy, only watermelon, pineapple and strawberries. All fresh and luscious.

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Summer’s day in Delft

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Some moments need to be captured. Here my friend and I are at Hills and Mills Pure Food in Delft. Before we sat down we checked the menu. We were curious after the iced tea and water. I tried the Green Goji Açai and my friend had the Rosemary lemonade. My drink was lightly colored red with some ice cubs. To be honest I wouldn’t order it again; I didn’t really taste the goji and it could have been sweeter. The Rosemary lemonade on the other hand was a joy to drink. We tasted all the ingredients separately; rosemary, lemon and sugar.

The photo was taken by my iphone 3gs. I love the balance between the sharpness and blurriness of the scenery, both in objects and color. I was quite surprised and at the same time impressed by the result. Reason why is that it’s getting harder and harder to take nice photo’s with my iphone camera. The object must be still and the light perfect otherwise it will turn out vague or blurry. But I’m stubborn. I want to keep on to this phone until it’s useless as a whole. Perhaps the photo came out this beautiful because I was unconsciously influenced by my friend who is an animal photographer. She is involved in different photo projects and when walking around she’s always thinking of filling the gaps; her creativity on a roll.

That’s why she asked me to step into these giant Dutch clogs. One of the themes she was working on was called ‘Summer Shoes’. Every time we meet I’m inspired by her view on the world; taking time for detail. We passed by a group of youngsters who were having a day out in Delft as a part of a Science week they attended. To keep them busy they had like 20 random assignments. One of these assignments was to take a photo with a Chinese. Hmmm…so they spotted me. They were sure about me being Chinese so they jumped into it with the question ‘May we take a photo with you?’ On this hot summer’s day they weren’t at all creative; photo was taken with all of them (6) standing while my friend intended to persuade them to position themselves in an eye catching way. An unanimous ‘no, not necessary’ was the answer.

We ended our afternoon with buying some essentials from the market; cheese, cherries and eggplant. It was a lovely day, chatting away about our work and all the randomness which crossed our path.

Christian wedding in Germany

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Last weekend my cousin got married. To my big surprise it was a Christian wedding. They arranged a beautiful place called Schloss Weiterdingen in the South of Germany. My cousin has not been brought up with a religion. Neither have I. So imagine the Chinese delegation from the Netherlands singing in church. It was awkward to say the least. But we tried. We did the best we could. We sang. In English. I cried upon hearing the tunes of the first song whilst seeing my cousin and his future wife awaiting their marriage.

After having sung several songs and listened to the pastor of their church it was time for exchanging the rings. A very cute little boy handed them the rings. She had a bit of a trouble with putting the ring on his finger. My cousin took over and put the ring on his finger himself. This resulted in a salvo of laughs. Hilarious! It was official. My cousin got married to a woman from Latvia and they will spend their life in Zurich for the time being.

What I found interesting to hear were the stories the pastor told us before he wedded the bridal couple. ‘Marriage is a gift from God, it’s the reunion of a man and woman; two separate souls who in marriage will be completed as one. Encountering ones soulmate in life is a gift one should cherish every day. The wife should take care of her husband and nourish him well. Make his breakfast every day and a smart woman prepares breakfast in the evening so the husband can warm it up in the morning.’

Yes, those were the words I remembered him telling us. When people from his church share their wish to marry, he offers them counselling to see if they are fit to marry each other. In relation to the bridal couple, he emphasized the bridal couple’s loving way of communicating; an important element of marriage. The pastor radiated with love and godly expressions.

Their wedding day included an international buffet; this was arranged with help of family and friends, a huge romantic wedding cake, a photo-shoot blessed with sunny weather and a formal dinner filled with impressive speeches. I am glad I was there to witness their love for each other.