Tag Archives: personality

Subtler than our desires

In a previous article I mentioned that I am exploring and practising a method of contemplation which helps me to understand and direct my emotions. The key to that method is becoming aware of the needs and/or desires which come before our emotions1.

There is something that is even more subtle than our needs and desires and in yoga psychology they are called samskaras: they are the mental impressions that we have stored in our mind and they are at the root of our personality (and by extension, our actions). Up to a week ago I wasn’t able to use this concept to gain understandings of my personality, but this changed when it suddenly ‘clicked’ after a recent training2.

The most straightforward way in which I can explain this insight is by example. I remember an incident from when I was still in primary school, where I was standing on a bulky book so that I could grab something from a shelf. My teacher told me not do that and when I asked her why I shouldn’t, she said that books should be treated with respect. That answer didn’t make any sense to me, so I asked her why books have to be treated with respect. She told me that when she was young, she was taught by several people that books should be treated with respect because they contain knowledge.

The ‘dialogue’ I had with my teacher started from her

  • demand: don’t stand on that book; which was the result of her
  • belief: books should3 be respected; which was the result of her
  • samskara: she was told in her youth that books should be respected.

That dialogue I had with her is a dialogue we can have with ourselves. When we use the method of contemplation we can become aware of our feelings when we question what motivates our thoughts, and we can become aware of our needs when we question what motivates our feelings. To become aware of our samskaras however, it appears to be easier to question our (subtle) demands instead of directly questioning our needs4. Our demands are the strategies to meet our needs which are very closely related to our beliefs, which are in turn very closely related to the past experiences that we have stored in the mind.

Once we have brought our samskaras to our conscious awareness we can process them and examine their usefulness to us. I imagine that this can significantly increase our self-understanding and ease our self-transformation, but as this insight is new to me I will need to make experiments myself to verify this.

1: Two recent examples of how I used that method on myself: 1, 2.
2: This was a training on leadership and coaching, for which my employer had hired FPnP).
3: We can recognise our demands and beliefs from our musts/mustn’ts and shoulds/shouldn’ts.
4: This is because we all share the same needs. It is unlikely that we will find anything specific to us when we analyse what we all share in common.


The yoga psychology of the Twitter follower count

I read an article a few weeks ago with statistics on fake Twitter followers of Dutch politicians. It was a reminder to me that having followers on social media is generally considered to be an important thing, and served as an extra trigger for me to try and understand the psychology of having Twitter followers a little bit better.

The method that I use to understand such subjects is self-study1 through contemplation. In this case this started for me by observing my reactions to gaining and losing followers on Twitter. I found that whenever I gained a follower I had a sense of happiness, and whenever I lost one I felt a bit sad or annoyed. I also started noticing that thoughts of my Twitter follower were popping up in my mind more regularly during the day. I took this as an indication that underneath this ‘follower count’ there is something that is important to me.

I asked myself why I am having these feelings; more specifically, I asked myself what needs of mine are being fulfilled by gaining followers. The answer that my mind gave me was loud and clear: “Attention, recognition and approval.” This means that I was unconsciously seeking the attention, recognition and approval of others, and that I was interpreting being followed as being given attention to, being recognised and being approved.

I consider spirituality to be the process of making my happiness independent of other people or things outside of me. This is what I consider to be the practice of non-attachment2. I therefore always remind myself of the following: whatever I seek outside of me is something that I am not finding or giving to myself, and that will eventually lead me to misery.

I have noticed that only the realisation that I am seeking something outside of myself is not enough: as long as I have the perception that I am indeed finding what I seek, I am not able to change the behaviour of seeking that something outside of myself. I have already described one method of breaking this habit on this blog, which boils down to coming to the understanding that if somebody likes or dislikes someone/something, it has (almost) everything to do with that person and (almost) nothing with that someone/something. This understanding paves the way to self-fulfilling our needs.

In this specific case of Twitter followers however, it doesn’t even go to ‘liking’ or ‘disliking’. I have observed that quite a large number of people don’t follow others out of interest, but merely as a strategy to be followed back!

This whole idea of having Twitter followers has become almost entirely meaningless to me after this examination. It has left me with amazement at how our mind leads us to nonsensical behaviours when we seek to fulfill ourselves through external means.

1: ‘svadhyaya’ in the Yoga Sutras
2: ‘practice’ and ‘non-attachment’ lead to Self-realisation according to Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras


Identifying feelings 辨別感受

Part 1
Part 2 – This article

Last Sunday I had the pleasure of conducting a workshop for HYMT on the subject of going beyond judgements. To me this means moving out of the head and into the heart, away from certain kinds of thinking and into feeling. Both Elly and I were intrigued by the great difficulty that the participants of the workshop had in identifying feelings. This is a subject that I have also found very difficult and it took me a number of years (!) to find a pathway out of my head and into my heart. It is my hope that through this sharing of some insights that I have had on this topic, you will be able to find a pathway into the heart more easily than I was able to.

It has now been almost two years ago that I was in a very negative state of mind, full of frustration and depression. I was in this state when Wolfgang called me to come talk to him in Germany. In another article I will write more about this specific meeting with him, because the conversation we had was one of the highlights in my training so far. What is important for this article is that he often asked me how I was feeling, to go into my heart and to stop talking from my head because he had no interest in listening to that. Almost every time that I thought I was expressing my feelings, he was letting me know that I was stuck in my head. I was so confused and frustrated by my inability to understand what this heart-business was that I ended up just staring at him, not knowing what to say. I realised that I was clueless on this subject.

To come back to that workshop I mentioned, I asked the participants to answer the following question:

You have just done the dishes and somebody in your household tells you: “For God’s sake, you really don’t know how to do the dishes!” What do you suspect that that person is feeling?

Here are some examples of the answers I got:

  • That person feels that his way of doing dishes is different from mine.
  • That person feels that I didn’t do a good job.
  • That person feels that I am not paying attention to some small details, and that I could have paid attention to those details.
  • That person feels that I am not helping her.

I began to see in the participants signs of the same dumbstruckness that had come over me in my conversation with Wolfgang when I said of each and every answer that it is not a feeling. It can be seen from the expression that we use, whether we are talking from the head or from the heart.

Marshall Rosenberg actually gives a simple rule of thumb, which works extremely well in certain languages (like English and Dutch, but not necessarily in Mandarin Chinese), that you can use to determine this: whenever somebody says “I feel that …”, everything after that is either rational analysis, judgement, speculation or something else coming from that person’s head. What the person is probably meaning to say is something along the lines of “I think that …”, “I believe that …” or “I suspect or guess that …”

Feelings are expressed with simple words. Here are a few of many examples:

  • Happiness; I feel happy.
  • Joyfulness; I feel joyful.
  • Satisfaction; I feel satisfied.
  • Confidence; I feel confident.
  • Confusion; I feel confused.
  • Anger; I feel angry.
  • Frustration; I feel frustrated.
  • Sadness; I feel sad.
  • Insecurity; I feel insecure.
  • Discomfort; I feel uncomfortable
  • Fear; I feel afraid

The above list does not mean that something like “I feel watched” or “I feel judged” is an expression of a feeling. When you analyse the words watched and judged, you will find that it describes some action of somebody else. It is another way of saying “I feel that somebody is watching or judging me”.

I would suggest to use the explanations aboven in the following way. When you want to know your feeling about something, see whether what you are saying to yourself (or others) from the heart by checking it against the examples of feeling-expressions and the examples of thought-expressions above. If that is a thought-expression, try to formulate a feeling-expression. If you cannot name a feeling or emotion, simply try to see what word fits best. Is it sadness, happiness, joy, fear, etc. You will feel it when you come across the right one.

Part 1
Part 2 – 本文






  • 那個人覺得他洗碗的方法和我的不一樣.
  • 那個人覺得我做得不好
  • 那個人覺得我忽略了我應該注意到的小細節
  • 那個人覺得我沒有幫上忙


事實上,Marshall Rosenberg提供了一個很簡單的原則。這個原則在某些語言裡很有用,如英文和荷蘭文,但不見得對中文有用。你可以用這個原則來判斷:當一個人說:「我感覺…」在「我感覺」之後出現的話,常是理性的分析、論斷、猜測或某些來自大腦理性的敍述。這個人可能真正要語的是:「我想…」、「我相信…」、「我猜…」 。


  • 快樂:我感到快樂
  • 愉悅:我感到愉快
  • 滿足:我感到滿足.
  • 自信:我感到自信
  • 困惑:我感到困惑
  • 生氣:我感到生氣
  • 傷心:我感到傷心
  • 不安全感:我感到不安
  • 不舒適:我感到不適
  • 恐懼:我感到害怕




Understanding your personality 了解你的人格特質

Part 1 – This article
Part 2

In the last couple of days I have been confronted with a number of situations that have stirred up some powerful emotions in me. It is interesting that this is happening at a time that I have started to understand a practical and useful approach to dealing with emotions and have silently resolved within myself to practice that approach. Some words of wisdom of my father will help explain this apparent coincidence: He says

When you resolve to obtain a driver’s license, you will be faced with the driving test.”

The peculiar part is that approach that I have started to realise is mentioned in one way or the other in both of the materials that I am studying at the moment, namely Marshall Rosenberg‘s Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and a compilation of some of Swami Rama’s commentary on chapter 2 of the Yoga Sutras into a book called Sadhana: the Path to Enlightenment.

I would express my understanding of the ‘aim’ of the approach as a method that helps you to at the one hand gain an insight into a basic level of your being that lies beneath your emotions and on the other hand to gain the ability to direct your emotions, thoughts and actions when confronted with strong emotions. To quote from Swami Rama’s compiled commentary:

“Even though you may be a highly cultured and intelligent person, one emotion can come and make you behave irrationally. For instance, you may lose your temper and behave in a totally unexpected manner (…)

The level of desire is deeper and more powerful than the emotional level. If you study your desires it is easy to understand your life and the different aspects of your personality.”

The important insight that underlies the approach is that underneath the realm of actions lies the realm of thoughts; and underneath the realm of thoughts lies the realm of emotions (feelings). When we go even deeper than the realm of emotions, we encounter the realm of needs and desires. Swami Rama mentions another layer which lies even deeper than desires, which is the layer of subtle impressions (samskaras) in the memory bank of the mind; I have not yet recognised an experience from that layer for myself, so I will not discuss that layer here.

Now the approach itself is quite simple. Start from the layer that you are aware of at a certain moment, observe what you are experiencing at that level without judgements, and then try to look at or ask yourself what activity is present at the layer underneath the level where you just were. Then continue from that level. In essence, this is a practice of self-dialogue or contemplation.

I want to illustrate this method through an experience I had over a year ago. Once on a quiet Saturday morning I was walking home, coming back from doing groceries. I was waiting at the final traffic light before my house, where an elderly gentlemen and his wife were also waiting to cross the road. While we were waiting there an ambulance came racing by with its sirens on. There seemed to be a big emergency because the ambulance made a sudden right turn and crossed a sidewalk to end up in the street where it needed to be. The gentlemen standing next to me was suddenly getting angry and he started saying to his wife, “What kind of dangerous and reckless driving is this?! This should be made illegal!” and so on.

In the meantime I was getting very annoyed and angry myself, because I couldn’t really understand why the man would feel the need to complain about something that seemed so obvious to me. I soon became aware of how tense I had made my body. Experiencing that tension with curiosity, I quickly became aware of my thoughts. I was thinking things like “Oh my God! What an idiot! How can he be so dumb not to understand this?!” I was not judging these thoughts, I simply saw the thoughts passing through me. I then saw through them and realised they were thoughts coming from anger. My anger was leading me to mental complaints. When I stopped going with the anger and simply started feeling and observing it, I asked myself, “Wait a minute. Why am I getting angry? What am I trying to achieve?” I got one of the most shocking answers of my life. I answered myself with, “I want to feel better than that person. When I complain about him, I feel better about myself.”

After receiving that answer, the whole chain stopped by itself. No more feelings of anger, no more angry thoughts and no more tension in the body. Since that day I do not complain as much anymore, because I gained a simple insight into that part of myself from which those thoughts are coming and that there is another way to nurture that part.

Part 1 – 本文
Part 2



有趣的是,在我目前所學習的Marshall Rosenberg的非暴力溝通課程以及一本集結拉瑪大師針對《瑜珈經》第二章的講解《修行:開悟之路》當中,都提到這個我開始有所認識的方法。。