Beauty and success: Does looking good serve a purpose?

It's a jungle out there, but beauty might help you succeed. Give us a smile love!

It’s a jungle out there, but beauty might help you succeed. Give us a smile love!

We are constantly pressured to look beautiful. Everyone agrees that judging others by their looks is shallow, but unfortunately the world we live in and our evolutionary make-up, favours err well, make-up. Beauty and image help us to achieve our goals on a practical level, but ultimately developing our inner selves should be our main goal.

Make-up attracts men

Research shows that women who wear make-up are more likely to be approached by men in a bar and also positive facial expressions such as smiling, make us more attractive to the opposite sex.

Beautiful people are more likely to get jobs

In a Newsweek survey of 202 corporate hiring managers, 57% said that unattractive candidates are likely to have a harder time landing a job and while more than half advised spending as much time and money on “making sure they look attractive” as on perfecting a résumé.

I personally often struggle with the idea of making myself beautiful for others. For one, it takes a lot of effort and at least another 20 minutes of the time I could spend in bed in the morning. It also feels like succumbing to social pressure and the rebellious part of me wants to resist this. I want to say I don’t care what I look like. Surely what’s inside is more important than what’s outside?

While this may be true, we can’t escape the society we live in and where we need to survive socially and professionally. It’s ironic but being beautiful outside, will attract others to us and make them want to get to know us better on the inside.

“People do judge a book by its cover…but a beautiful cover prompts a closer reading.”

Today, you need to think of yourself as a brand and your looks contribute to how your brand is perceived, and when you look good you also become more confident.

Beauty before brains?

Luckily not! When it comes to dating, research has shown that in modern societies, men place a greater emphasis on finding a partner that is intelligent, while those in more traditional societies still place more value on beauty and cooking skills when looking for a wife.

The other side of the coin is that as women and men became more equal in their earning power, women are now more likely to prioritise looks over money when assessing a partner, because they are now less dependent on men to secure them financially.  

We are hard wired from an evolutionary perspective to prefer beautiful people, even babies prefer to look at beautiful people. Physically our beauty is linked to our hormones, which are linked (like everything else it seems) to reproduction.

Beauty comes from within

Ultimately, I believe and everyone knows that beauty comes from within. It’s the personality, chemistry, charisma, the mind and spirit that a person radiates, which makes them beautiful to us. But physical beauty and presentation is still obviously a bonus.

Your image as a practical tool to achieve your goals

Simply put, to achieve results in this society, it is important to present the best image of yourself from both inside and out. Even if you don’t believe that your physical image is important in the grand scheme of things, it will help you to achieve your goals on a practical level if you look the part.

What’s important to remember though is that while beauty and image are tools to get what we want and increase our confidence, what’s inside – our personality, actions and our soul are the things that we should really be working to perfect. In the end physical form won’t last forever, but the positive actions we take and the work we do on our inner selves, no one can ever take away from us.

“Your physical attributes, like your body, are merely borrowed. Do not set your heart on them, for they are transient and only last for an hour. Your spirit by contrast is eternal: your body is on this earth, like a lamp, but its light comes from that everlasting Source above.” (Rumi, Masnavi IV: 1840 – 2)

What do you think, should we make the effort to look good? Or should we just not care about what others think?

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Modern torture

hospital“God does not impose on anyone any more than they can bear” (Qur’an, 2:286)

What a week it’s been. I was happily painting my wardrobe on Sunday, when I got a phone call from my mum’s friend that mum had fallen of a horse while horse riding and they were now in an ambulance, on their way to the hospital.

Since then it’s a been a whirlwind of going to the hospital, scans, tests and most of all lots of waiting and frustration with the hospital. It was found that my mum had broken her spine, although she’s been lucky enough that her spinal cord wasn’t damaged and so she’s not paralysed.

But because she’s not paralysed, she is not classed as an emergency case and so has now had to wait one whole week, with a broken spine, in the same position, not being able to move and in excruciating pain.

The doctors kept repeating that her case isn’t urgent, because she can move her legs, and that there are no beds in the specialist spinal hospital, she’s on the waiting list and as soon as a bed is available she’ll go there, surgery should happen within 48 hours we were told.

One week later, she is still waiting for surgery. Only yesterday after much harassment of the directors of both hospitals and complaining to my local MP as well as threatening to go to the press, if nothing is done urgently, I was told that she will be transferred this Sunday and have an operation this Monday.

After we were told twice that there was a bed and then again were told there wasn’t a bed the next day, I said to myself I won’t believe anything until it actually happens.

My mum has finally been transferred to the specialist hospital yesterday, and now she’s being told that her operation might be delayed another two days after the confirmed date.

I just cannot believe this system where people are left to lie with a broken back, in pain, being pumped with drugs for more than a week waiting for treatment. Being told they’ll have an operation and a bed a number of times and then being told the next day that there was a mistake and that there is no bed and no operation yet. Being told that ‘there is no urgent need to operate, because you can move your legs and we can give you pain killers for the pain.’

The pain killers make you feel sick, so you have a choice be sick and without pain or have pain. My mum has said that the minutes are like hours and that this has been the worst week of her life, nothing compares to it, it feels like torture.

I do understand that people who could be paralysed should have priority in getting treatment, but there is a limit to how long anyone should have to wait with a broken back in agony for an operation and being constantly misinformed about what to expect.

I don’t even know what would have happened if I hadn’t complained to the directors of the hospitals and the MP, perhaps my mum would have to wait even longer to be transferred, which makes me sad about the people that are in hospital and have no one to advocate on their behalf.

Right now, my mum is still in hospital waiting for an operation after more than a week, this is only the first hurdle in the process and it has already been so stressful and difficult that I don’t even want to think about the next steps.

There are some things that I have learnt so far from this though, and no doubt the learning process has not yet finished.

  1. If you want to be heard you need to fight for your rights and challenge others, otherwise no one will care and people will not give you the treatment and opportunities you deserve.
  2. Take things one step at a time. You can always deal with the present moment. Thinking about the road ahead will only cause you anxiety. You need to focus on what is happening now and deal with the rest when it comes to it.
  3. Why take unnecessary risks with your health? Once you see something like this happen, you come to question if horse riding or other potentially dangerous sports are really worth it. Sure, you can get hurt anywhere anytime; you don’t have to be horse riding or doing a dangerous sport, but why take the extra risk?
  4. Patience really is a virtue
  5. Look at private insurance

Those are my conclusions so far, and I’m only praying that things actually start happening now, that the operations will be as scheduled, that it will be successful and that my mum will get better soon.

When I feel down about it, I think about the verse in the Quran which says:

“God does not impose on anyone any more than they can bear” (Qur’an, 2:286)

And that makes me feel better…

Peace and love






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Love, sweet love

Smarties love“Choose love, love! Without the sweet life of love, living is a burden – as you have seen.”

So Valentine’s day is coming up again, that day makes me think about love, romantic love that is.

If you have a partner, then you think about what you should do on that day to make it special. If you don’t then you just go home and avoid going out to avoid Valentine’s themed everything in shops, supermarkets and restaurants.

In my mind I’ve gone back to various Valentine’s days in my life, realised that I can count the ones I remember on one hand.

The first Valentine’s day I remember, is when I came to England at the age of six and first heard of Valentine’s day at school. We didn’t have Valentine’s day in Communist Czechoslovakia.

I remember there was a post box in the assembly room and people could drop their cards there and then a boy who was assigned as a post man would deliver them. I did think, even at the time, it was  a bit strange to have a school condoning romance between children so young as seven, but nevertheless I went along with the game and wrote a Valentine’s card (anonymously) to my two favourite boys at schools who were called Jamie and Matthew (I think).

I felt disappointed when I didn’t get any cards myself, as I was the weird foreign kid, with a dodgy haircut at school at the time, and the more popular girls got several cards and I just watched them with awe from a distance.

However two Valentine’s cards arrived at my house, which made my father look worried as to who sent them and he started watching out for any suspicious looking paedophiles in the area.

Later in life, I managed to up my game a bit in the popularity stakes with boys and the next Valentine’s day I remember was when my first ever boyfriend, at the age of 15, gave me a flower he picked in his garden.

My first thought was that he could have done a lot better than that, but as I was in love with him, I instantly forgave him and reinterpreted this as a quirky and cool and not too romantic way of expressing his love to me (romance was not seen as cool at that age).

The next Valentine’s day I remember after that is after a painful breakup with a boyfriend, and how rubbish it felt not being with him on that day.

Then there was a Valentine’s day when I got proposed to in a restaurant, luckily with no ring, needless to say, I turned down the offer, which put a bit of downer on the rest of the evening.

Then the last Valentine’s day I remember was the one before this one, when I still had a boyfriend and we went out to a local Indian restaurant and he gave me some jewellery, which broke the first time I wore it. Perhaps that was ominous, as we split up very soon after that.

It’s been a year since then, and it makes me wonder what future Valentine’s days will bring.

Thinking about Valentine’s day has got me thinking about love in general. In the past I used to think that having someone to love and who loves me back would solve all the answers to my problems and make me happy.

But I discovered that it didn’t. My mistake was making my partner the centre of my life and expecting him to make me completely fulfilled. I felt incomplete without a boyfriend, and I always wanted to be with someone, I was never happy on my own.

In the past I would have probably stayed with someone, until I found a replacement, because I didn’t want to be single. But I knew I had to overcome this feeling, and learn how to be single and like being on my own, because I didn’t want to be with someone for the wrong reasons.

I realised being single was better than being in a relationship that wasn’t working and also that I needed to be happy with my own life before I could be happy with a partner. I couldn’t expect them to fulfil me, I had to fulfil myself. I needed to fall in love with my life, before someone could fall in love with me. Because if I didn’t feel excited about my life and about myself, why would someone else?

Being single now is letting me build my own life that I’m excited about. So when the right person does come along, they will only complement the life I already have, and not be the centre of it. I won’t expect them to fulfil me completely, because that’s not even possible and it’s an unrealistic expectation to make of anyone.

So happy Valentine’s day everyone. I wish you lots of love in all areas of your life, and that you always love the life you have, and if you don’t love your life now, then that you succeed in creating it.

Peace and love


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Lets talk about sex baby…

Hmm, I wonder if I should have played a bit more hard to get she thought...

Hmm, I wonder if I should have played harder to get, she thought…

Sex is a hot topic at the moment. Time Out is conducting their 2013 London sex survey   and everyone is still reading the 50 Shades of Grey, so sex is officially back on the book shelves and people are admitting to reading it and even reading it openly on the tube.

We never cease to be fascinated by sex, how many times do others do it, how do they do it, how often, what’s normal and what’s ‘weird.’

Some see sex as only something sacred between a couple that love each, and some see that it can be a recreational activity, that one does for fun with whoever they feel like doing it with at the time.

Sex can mean different things to people in different stages of their lives. Before you have sex for the first time, you;re desperate to do it all the time and then apparently when you have kids you actually have to schedule a day in the week to do it on (Wednesday is the best time for Business time, usually).

One couple did an experiment where they had sex everyday for a whole year, which does seem a bit tiring to be fair.

I’m still trying to figure sex out. People often don’t feel comfortable talking about sex, even though we all know that’s how we are here, but there is a lot of taboo around it. Some people don’t even think that sex should be discussed at all, it’s completely private and so it should stay.

But, are we just making a bigger deal out of it than we need to, is it just a kind of relaxing activity, a bit like a massage, that we should enjoy when we can and not make too much of it? Or should it be only with someone special, who we love and are committed to?

I guess everyone will have their own idea about this, and that also depends on which stage of life you are in, if you’re in a relationship or not. I mean what’s wrong with having some casual sex with someone if you’re single? Or what’s wrong with having an open relationship if that’s what you both (presuming there are only two of you) want?

Some people argue that actually having an open relationship is more natural than being committed to only one person. Hardly any animal is monogamous, so why should humans be? Is it only through our socialisation and religious influence that we now accept monogamy as the standard way of having a relationship?

The only problem with having sex recreationally though, is the fact that it can cause pregnancy and bring you STDs, that’s why probably most religions advocate sex only after marriage, as it usually prevents from having single mothers and children with unknown fathers. And in the past when contraception didn’t exist, sex before marriage was definitely risky business.

Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist, says that no sex is casual sex.  When we have sex, we release hormones which attach us to that person, so we get attached to them whether we want to or not, this is presumably nature’s clever trick so that when a child is born the couple actually want to stay together to raise it. Interestingly, while both men and women get these attachment hormones, women have more of them, so they are more likely to get attached then men are. That would explain the many cases of people hooking up with someone who’s completely unsuited for them just to have sex and then ending up in a relationship with them (blame the hormones) and also why men (it is said) enjoy having casual sex more then women do, because they are less likely to get attached.

In some cultures polygamy and polyandry is normal. In one Buddhist culture, any living arrangement is accepted. There are some couples who are polygamous, polyandrous, homosexual or whatever, and no one judges them, it’s just a case of do whatever works for you, then that’s fine.

Personally I think sex can be both, a recreational activity, or can provide an amazing spiritual connection, which means you have to obviously be connected to the other person emotionally and mentally and not only physically.

Sex can be a way of reaching ecstasy, not just in the physical sense but in a transcendental sense. Some spiritual practices, like tantric sex, place emphasis on sex as a spiritual vehicle. It is said that man and woman are always seeking a connection with each other through sex, because they can never be fulfilled until they do. They are two separate pieces of a whole and can only attain union, physical and spiritual through connecting.

But perhaps I’m just reading too much into it. Perhaps sex is just physical and it’s meant to ensure our survival as a species, so we have to like doing it, otherwise we’d die out, like eating, it’s pleasurable (sometimes) and it’s necessary for our survival.

However for me casual sex is a bit like eating a big tub of ice cream in one sitting. It night feel good when you are doing it, but leaves you feeling empty afterwards. While casual sex might be fun, sex with someone you love and are committed to is even more fun and unlike casual sex, it creates a real meaningful connection in every sense for the couple involved.

And what to do if you’re not getting any at the moment? Try meditating, science has now confirmed that meditation is even better than an orgasm. That’s why they say great spiritual leaders can be celibate, they can reach ecstasy without having sex, they reach it through their spiritual practices, including meditation. That must also explain why I love meditating so much.

I don’t know about you, but I’m off to meditate now…

Peace and love


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Is life stranger than fiction?

Elif autographI’ve always lived by the motto that life is stranger than fiction and more interesting. That’s why I have personally always pursued knowledge and read books that I could learn something from rather than fiction, which I often saw as a waste of time, like watching TV something that will give you no intellectual benefit, but just hollow entertainment.

But Elif Shafak in her King’s lecture last week reminded me that fiction can indeed bring knowledge in an indirect and sometimes unintentional way.

In her talk Elif said that she saw herself as a story teller not as a teacher or someone who tells people what they should think. Her stories are purely fictional and based on her imagination.

However, I have found that despite her intentions, I have actually learnt a lot form Elif’s books. My favourite of her books is Forty Rules of Love which is based on the story of Rumi and Shams and their relationship.

Although it’s a fictional book, I learn a lot about Sufism from it, or Sufism as Elif sees it. The forty rules of love that are in the book, are not from Shams as I originally thought they were, but they are from Elif herself. The rules a very beautiful, profound and moving, and I have learnt a lot from them.

My belief is that every individual is connected to the whole universe and if they are guided by their intuition they can tap into knowledge that is universal. Being led by intuition is often easier when writing fiction, rather than factual writing. When writing about facts there is not much room to tap into that universal knowledge that can be felt by us to be true if we are open to it, but cannot always be proven methodologically. This is the benefit that fiction has over factual books for the writer and the reader.

Once about ten years ago, someone asked me ‘why do you like to read so much?’ And I thought about it, and I said ‘because I try and learn something from what I read,  I want to glimpse the truth in it.’  This more significant something that brings a sudden realisation or inspiration can be heard in songs, lyrics, paintings, poems, movies or any kind of art really, and I guess that’s why it’s appreciated so much.

Writing about facts is also easier than writing fiction, because you can hide behind the facts, you are just merely giving your interpretation to someone else’s work. Writing fiction or poetry cannot help but be partly biographical, it comes from your thoughts and feelings your anxieties and fears.

Writing fiction or your own ideas makes you more vulnerable than writing about facts. I often feel like when I am writing blog posts it’s easier to write about a book, rather than coming up with my own material from scratch. After all, in that way I can hide behind the knowledge that is already out there without revealing too much of myself, but as Rumi himself said:

“Run from what’s comfortable. Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.”

And that is hard motto, but one to live by if we want to be true to ourselves….



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How to flourish

flowerI’m currently reading Martin Seligman’s Flourish: A new understanding of happiness and well-being and how to achieve them.

Seligman points to five key elements of well being which are positive emotion, engagement (flow), meaning (working towards a cause which is higher than us), positive relationships (with others) and accomplishment.

He points out that for example if life were only about happiness then we wouldn’t choose to have children for example, because statistically people with children are less happy than those without. We also wouldn’t look after our old parents if we were only concerned about being happy. We do these things because they give us meaning and create positive relationships.

As in Sonja Lyubomirsky’s The How of Happiness, Seligman tells us that we can lift our mood by for example going out of our way to do kind things for others.

He also suggest we do the ‘What went well’ exercise everyday, when you write down three things that went well for you that day (everyday) and why.

Seligman is the father of positive psychology. Most often psychologists are focused on dealing with people’s issues and the healing process, trying to gett them back to normal, rather than actually making them happy. Positive psychology on the other hand takes people from feeling normal to flourishing.

Losada ratio

This is the ratio of negative versus positive statements in conversations. An experiment was done where meetings were taped in 60 companies and measured for positive and negative statements. Companies that had a 2.9:1 ratio for positive to negative statements are flourishing, below that ratio companies are not doing well economically. But being too positive is not good either. Companies with a 13:1 ratio did not do well as they didn’t have enough critical thinking.

John Gottman did another experiment like this with couples ‘A 2.9.1 means you are headed for a divorce. You need a 5.1 ratio to predict a strong and loving marriage – five positive statements for every critical one you make to your spouse. A habit of 1:3 in a couple is an unmitigated catastrophe.’

Positive psychology in treating depression

Depression has been treated more successfully by positive psychology than with standard treatments.  In an experiment ’55 percent of patients in positive psychotherapy, 20 percent in treatment as usual, and only 8 percent in treatment as usual plus drugs achieved remission.’

Why then don’t all psychologists use these techniques to cure depression? Firstly, because positive psychology is only in its beginning stages and more tests need to be done. Secondly, Seligman writes that clinical psychology has given up on curing people, because it takes too long and it’s too expensive. The problem is that all drugs against depression are only cosmetic, so once someone stops taking them they stop working. By contrast positive psychology creates lasting habits, which in turn have lasting effects.

Active constructive responding

Seligman writes that this form of responding builds better relationships. When someone has good news you need to actively and constructively respond to them. You need to say how happy you are for them, ask them questions about it, relive it with them, celebrate it with them. Your body language should display signs of positive emotion, such as genuine smiling, touching, laughing, maintaining eye contact.

The opposite of this would be if you made a negative comment, or didn’t acknowledge their success at all or just saw the bad side of it.

Teaching positive psychology

Seligman argues for flourishing to be taught at school from a young age and incorporated into the curriculum. There have already been experiments with this which have been highly successful.

I certainly would have welcomed classes like this at school. It would have saved me having to learn all this later in life. Hopefully the next generations will be lucky enough to have these basic skills taught to them at school.

Seligman also has a website, where there are lots of tests, if you want to check where you are on the flourishing scale.

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Change is our destiny

1269510_flower_eyeChange is hard. My soul yearns to do lots of things but my ego is scared. It tells me, ‘oh but that could be dangerous, that could be painful, that could be embarrassing, that could be…’

What is the answer? Sometimes the answer is thinking, oh not now, I’ll do that when…’I have more money, more time, next year…’add in your own excuse here. Or the other better answer is ‘feel the fear and do it anyway.’

Recent books I’ve read including Children who remember past lives and Life after life, as well as most recently Clemens Kuby’s  Towards the next dimension, have strengthened me in the belief that our souls continue being reborn, or reincarnated. There is no other way I can explain that some people remember previous lives accurately.

In his book (unfortunately the book does not seem to be translated into English), Kuby tells his amazing story of recovery. He had an accident, which led to the fact that the doctors said he had no chance of walking again, he would be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. But Kuby refused to believe this and instead spent long periods in what was deep meditation, concentrating on his soul, his ego had been suppressed because of the sheer agony that every movement was causing him.

Eventually, he was able to move his toe and then start walking. He had cured himself. None of the doctors that were there believed it and one fell to his knees thanking God that he had performed this miracle before them.

While still on his hospital bed, unable to walk, Kuby had a vision that he went to a place where there were no roads, no white flour, no sugar , no tourists and no electricity. His friend who came to visit him said, ‘I’ve been to this place, it’s called Ladak and it’s in the West Himalayas.’ This gave Kuby hope and further motivation to cure himself and go to Ladak to make a documentary about ‘uncivilised people.’

When he did learn to walk he went to Ladak and the first person he met by ‘coincidence’ was the Dalai Lama, with whom he started a conversation, and which led to the discovery that while the people he was making a documentary about where not civilised by our materialistic measures, they were civilised much more than the West in terms their awareness of the spiritual world and listened to their souls.

This led him to make the film Living Buddha and Towards the next dimension, where he visits shamans in all cultures, in India, South America, Russia, Tibet, Korea and Africa. He sees the different techniques they use and basically concludes that they are masters of performance. Sometimes people that go to them are terminally ill and the doctors have told them they have no chance to survive. They go to the shaman, participate in rituals and then the cancer is gone. He sees that the shamans, through their theatrical methods, create the belief in the individuals that they are cured, their minds become convinced of it and so they really are cured. The person has to believe they will get better, and the shaman only helps them. If someone doesn’t believe they can get better no one can help them.

Kuby speaks of people being spiritual beings, as opposed to just material beings. The spirit survives when the body and ego are gone and then can find another body to live in. This cannot be proven, it can only be felt.

In this sense everybody has timeless wisdom at their disposal because their souls may have lived through a lot, through many lives and can also connect with the one soul that we all came from – you can call it God, energy, the universe, whatever you like. Eventually there comes a stage where we can become aware of our past lives and learn from them, like the Dalai Lamas are constantly being reincarnated into new bodies and their followers always find them. They can choose where and to go and to whom they are reincarnated.

The soul knows that it is eternal, only the ego is worried that it will die along with the body and therefore lets us live in fear of illness and  death. But if the soul is eternal, than we have nothing to worry about because we will never die.

Even lovers, that loved each other in past lives can find themselves meeting again in other lives – which can be ‘love at first sight’ or the feeling that they’ve known someone for long, even before they’ve met them. The soul remembers the love of another soul from the past life and so keeps searching for it in this life.

Kuby tells the story that after he started believing in reincarnation, he wanted his grandmother to be reborn to him as his daughter. He told his grandmother (who had passed away 10 years ago) that she would be welcome to be reincarnated in his daughter if she would like to do so. Two weeks later his wife became pregnant, and a baby girl was born. When she was four years old, the little girl told them, that she already had children – they were now grown up and were called Erich and Lisel and that she was a singer. Kuby’s father had indeed been called Erich and his aunt was Lisel. His grandmother had also been a renowned opera singer.

Well sceptics might say that this could be chance that the little girl said this, perhaps she was influenced by her father’s wish, or telepathy was at play. But this book and other literature and accounts, show that there are many examples of these cases, and in the end there can be no solid proof of reincarnation, as there is no proof for the existence of a Higher being, but deep down we can feel what is true for us and what is not true or right for us, even though our logic might try and fight what we feel.

Everything we consider true, has to be something different for each of us.

– Quote from the film Towards the next dimension.



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