Flow: Connected to the Stream of Life

Last weekend, Sunday to be precise, we had a magical day. Our car was at the garage. That’s why we decided to go by train to a birthday party. From door to door it would be little less than two hours. At first I thought this would be crazy; travelling with two kids who would be exposed to a continuous flow of impulses with a minimum chance of both of them taking a nap. But then again, it was all a matter of our attitude towards the trip. So I decided to enjoy every step of the way.

Our first encounter took place in the train. We met a lovely bright-eyed lady, she was radiating pure love. We started talking, because of the kids. I believe kids and animals are quite often used as a stepping stone to connect with people. But soon enough the conversation changed to exchanging our food habits and our view on how to eat clean. The lady, brought up in Zimbabwe and now living in the South of England, mentioned that she craves for salads and fruit. She also bakes with buckwheat, alternative grains and coconut oil. Arnold’s food heart was especially lifted up by this meet-up, because of his vegan lifestyle.

The lady works as a painter and uses her art to support and guide disabled people. Suddenly, in a flash of pure excitement, I said to her: I have a gift for you. She answered with a blush: ‘A gift? But meeting you and your kids is to me a big gift. I brought along books which were recently self-published. She was very happy to receive a copy of the Dutch book “Ben ik boos? Dan mag dat!”. It is on how to deal with anger when you are highly sensitive. She immediately thought of her sister who works as a biographical counsellor. She would be interested in this book.

After this lovely encounter Arnold and I exchanged a few words and lots of smiles, because we felt the same. By having decided to go to this birthday party by public transport we stepped into the flow of life, of exchanging our highest selves, our ideals, simply who we are connecting with other beautiful and loving souls on a mission.

The second surprising encounter took place on our way back to The Hague. We met a very sweet Brazilian couple with their dog. Again, thoughts on food were exchanged. Arnold’s vegan mind shook hands with Brazilian BBQ and fastfood lovers. At the same time they were indeed conscious about food. This all came about because of their dog. This dog was skinny at first, he refused to eat canned animal food. He only ate when he was starved; he would stroll to his food at 3am in the morning. His health condition alarmed his bosses. They dived into the information on animal food and discovered that canned animal food would contain the worst parts of the meat. Not to mention chemicals and other non-nutritious ingredients mixed into the food.

They decided to go for healthy. Their dog gets to eat cooked vegetables and raw meat from the butcher. They admitted with a huge smile that their dog eats healthier than they do. Although, of course, this was a bit exaggerated. During the week they would focus on healthy foods and weekends were for fastfood. And all the while I was thinking: Oh my god, their dog taught them to do conscious food shopping! Fantastic.

Our last encounter took place in the bus. Our youngest is such a social guy. He puts effort in locking eyes with woman. This time he met the eyes and soul of an Indian woman. I noticed she was struck by pure love. She kept on saying what a sweet boy he was. She was travelling back home. The Netherlands has been her home for 15 years. I asked her about the Indian community in The Hague, because I love the Indian-English accent. She didn’t know, because she was a part of a diverse International community due to working for an international organisation. Then I asked her about the best Indian place to eat in The Hague. She gave the best possible and surprising answer, namely: “My home”. We shared laughs.

This Sunday turned out to be one of our favourite days in 2017. The flow we stepped into took us to Zimbabwe, England, Brazil and India. It took us to having these interesting serendipitous encounters. Actually, in my view, every encounter is a chance to share your highest self, to share your view on life, your heart, your soul. It makes the world a lot friendlier and cosier, where ever your from and where ever you reside at this moment. The encounter taking place feels like creating a home where you can laugh out loud, be curious, ask questions, receive and give. I love it.

A few days later I received an e-mail of the lady who received my book:

Lieve Chungmei,

Firstly I would like to say how much I enjoyed meeting you and your lovely family. It is through these surprise encounters that I feel so enriched and connected to the stream of Life! Your book has been such a gift to me for which I am very grateful. I am still reading and digesting it, but will give you more feedback later. I just wanted to touch in and thank you ‘voor het cadeautje’!

Veel groetjes en het allerbeste met je mooie werk!

I feel the same.

By the way, our kids did great. Even though it was an exceptional long day for them.

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. 

Playing make believe manifests things more quickly

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How children play is a true inspiration. We, grown-ups, should play more. Many people I speak who are in their forties or in their fifties feel either like a 16-year old or a 25-something. Therefore I am convinced that we shouldn’t refer to ourselves as grown-ups, but instead as big children. Somewhere deep in our hearts we all remain children, but the few are gifted with a child’s mind throughout their lifetime. Call it high sensitivity or highly gifted or better, leave it nameless.

I have the pleasure to bring up our daughter who is nearly five years. When we’re on a playground the playground turns into a pirate ship on sea. Because it’s cold on deck we should gather a whole bunch of branches so we can light it up to warm ourselves. Near the playground there was a skate-area. We climbed up one of the skate hills and with only a drop of her imagination she turned into mama bird and I into baby bird. I broke through my eggshells and she catches a worm for me.

After an hour of playing I felt revived. Imagination brought us anywhere we wanted and with this state of mind planet earth turned into a happy place. She and all children are my true inspiration of how playing make believe manifests things more quickly. I have experienced this on many levels of life up until now, but the most recent experience was having written a couple of blogs on food for Den Haag Direct. I had so much fun talking to owners of dining places and writing about my experiences that thought had crossed my mind to write more on food. I thought: How wonderful it is to be invited to eat and write about my experience.

One month later I was asked on a culinary tasting tour through the Hague’s King’s and Queens headquarters. Fantastic!! I had a sublime afternoon with lovely conversations and good food.

HSP: I think you are quite sensitive

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Today I received a lovely surprise while I was picking up my daughter from primary school. She’s in her first year and has made lots of friends. One girl walked up to me, looked at me with big expecting eyes and her arms were moving from one side to another in a really enthusiastic manner. What she non-verbally communicated to me was what her mom asked me in a verbal way. If my daughter was allowed to go with them by car for a play date. Later this afternoon her husband could drop her off at our home. This time I wasn’t able to speak.

Different thoughts were running through my mind. While I was still not speaking the lady nicely gave me back all the thoughts I was thinking. She knew exactly what I was thinking. Yes, I wanted to check if my daughter still had the energy to go on a play date. And I felt uncomfortable to send her off to people I hadn’t made acquaintance with yet. Moreover, I knew my daughter wouldn’t feel comfortable being brought home by a man she didn’t know. The lady was so nice. Any way around would be fine. She came across like a warm hearted person so I took some time to decide, but finally decided to invite them at our place for lunch.

Even though my daughter looked tired, which made me doubt to go on this play date in the first place, they had lots of fun together. I am happy there was no screaming or fighting. We, the adults, have gotten to know each other in the meantime. My man was cooking up a lunch for us and surprisingly and may I say “coincidentally” this lady doesn’t eat meat, fish or poultry and neither consumes produce of animals. This was exactly the diet my husband changed to two days ago. When she was five years old she decided not to eat meat anymore, because she felt bad for the animals.

Lunch was super. We had a salad of stir-fried brussels sprouts, mushrooms, grated carrot, sundried tomatoes and avocado along with brown rice. As a treat we served dates. Food wise we had a great click. We shared our experiences with food and at some point the conversation changed to high sensitivity. She mentioned that her family is very sensitive to many foods and in a very careful way she shared with us that she thinks we are very sensitive too. I laughed out loud and added to this that, as a coach, I am specialized in coaching highly sensitive people. It turned out we were talking to a mom who educated herself on this topic, because of her highly sensitive children. She has two daughters, the eldest is six years old and the girl who was playing at our place is four years old. Her husband and herself are highly sensitive too.

Last year, after May holidays, they have changed schools. The eldest was attending a Montessori school near their home, but somehow she wasn’t doing well in school. She didn’t feel like picking a game to play with and from the moment they arrived at the building she turned inwards. In short, she wasn’t happy. They have even consulted a child psychologist, but her daughter wouldn’t share her feelings. They were considering the fact that she might have been bullied, but they are not sure. Before changing schools, which was quite a life changing event for the family, they asked this psychologist if it would be wise to change schools even though they don’t know the cause behind their daughters behavior The psychologist responded that the child’s behavior is leading in every decision they make.

So before definitely changing to this school, which is by the way also a Montessori school, the children were able to attend school for one morning. Afterwards the eldest exclaimed that she wanted to attend this school. Even though the school is further away from their home, the mom is glad to have made this change for her children. She suffered sleepless nights, because her daughter wasn’t happy in school. Now the kids are happy, she is finally able to think ahead. One of the steps she will take is to look around for job opportunities.

Essential nourishment: Start feeding your soul with ‘Chef’

This movie is a must watch for everyone. The joy of cooking, eating and sharing food is contagious. It’s about a chef working in a restaurant going through a life crisis. This crisis takes him to owning a foodtruck selling sandwiches Cubanos and more latino streetfood. The conversations between the chef and his fellow cook and friend are hilarious. The soundtrack definitely supports in spreading the joy of cooking food while dancing. Watching the chef enhancing his father-son relationship by taking his son on their first foodtruck roadtrip is heartwarming. And I absolutely found it inspiring to see a 10-year old executing effective social media marketing for his fathers newly acquired foodtruck business. Watch this movie and get positively effected by the love of the game, the game of life.

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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