Why I’m Letting Go of my Infatuation with Intuition

Why I’m Letting Go of my Infatuation with Intuition

I always had an infatuation with intuition. I saw it as an inner guide, the voice of my true self, with answers to all the questions that befuddled me. If only I could nurture a reliable connection to this secret hideout of wisdom. If only I could tune up its voice in my mental noise. If only, if only… Intuition or Self Talk? And then something happened that made me question my obsession. I was returning from my annual trip to my parent’s home in Pakistan. As I settled my children in their seats and pulled out a book that had sat in my suitcase the past two weeks, I noticed the man diagonally in front of me. Through the slit between the seats, I could see him shuffling uncomfortably, checking his phone constantly, raising his armrest and peering under, and turning back every little while as if to make sure no one was watching. I was highly suspicious. Who was he and why was he so uneasy? Preconceptions of the typical Taliban came to mind, as did the horrors of 9/11. I tried to dismiss it as the unreasonable voice of fear, but could not get it out of my mind. And then the sudden thought. What if it was intuition? What if it was some inner wisdom calling me to act. My heart raced. What was I to do? If it were intuition, I had a huge responsibility to act. Not knowing quite what to do, and typical of my fear response, I dove right into the source of my fear and tapped his shoulder. He turned...
Teaching Humanity  through Compassion

Teaching Humanity through Compassion

The Syrian crisis has been the most frequent topic of discussion in my twins’ Global Perspectives class. I love the concept of the class – they access media coverage from around the world and see the same event covered from different perspectives. A great way to challenge their unconscious biases and broaden their perspective, or so one would think. But then they go on to do something that I think totally defeats the purpose. They critically analyze the news, but in what’s been called “motivated reasoning”, process the new information through the filter of their preexisting worldview. Which means that it often leads to what their teacher calls a drunk’s bar conversation, where they adamantly defend their positions and become all the more certain of their views. What Children Learn is Important At the breakfast table one day though, one of the twins was reading the story of a refugee family, one of many that they had read over the past few weeks. But when she looked up, something had changed within her. “Mommy!” she cried in alarm, “this family was just like us – they worked in good jobs, their children went to good schools. Their daughter did ballet, their two sons played soccer and basketball. And look what happened to them…” as she trailed off in disbelief. Somehow, the fact that most of the people were living normal lives before the crisis had evaded her for so long. And somehow this was all she needed to feel genuine empathy for them. It’s true that critical reasoning without empathy simply leads to cynicism and disconnect. To be moved...
The pleasures of food

The pleasures of food

Overlooking the pleasures of food There is no better season than summer to write about pleasures and food falls squarely within this realm. Yet, we routinely overlook its sensuality and fall into mindless, functional eating or succumb to overconsumption, missing opportunities to delight in its experience. POP concept owner, Aziz Mulay-Shah, recounts his love for food from Portugal. “Ameijoas al Bulhao Pato” is translated in the menu as clams steamed with boiled duck. What?!! I turn to my pal Paulo, who doubles as my translator and host on this tour of the streets of Lisbon’s Chiado neighbourhood for an explanation. He is stumped and only when we engage with the owner of our dining establishment do we get an answer: The translation is a mistake; it should read clams made in heaven. This mom and pop restaurant has no name and a poorly translated menu; yet, it has “Ameijoas” , clams – Portugal’s earth shattering gift to the universe. Explained by the owner, Ameijoas al Bulhao Pato is the traditional way of preparing clams: steamed in wine, olive oil, garlic, and coriander. The saltiness of the tiny molluscs is perfectly paired with the slight piquant of the coriander and white wine broth. To add another level of sensation comes garlic: tangy and earthy. The combination is too much for taste buds to handle; they explode in goodness and yumminess! This simple starter is a culinary revelation. I now understand when master chefs harp about two essentials: “get the balance right” and “keep it simple”. The cuisiniers who invented Ameijoas al Bulhao Pato understood these maxims and culinary travellers as...
The Meaning of Life

The Meaning of Life

I have always had an interest in living a good life – perhaps a natural attraction towards positive psychology. An experience early on in life eventually taught me the value of seeing the self as far deeper than the finely curated fragments of body and mind that we spend a lifetime trying to conquer. It showed me, albeit exclusively, the faint and subtle yearnings of the soul that often went unheard in the noise and clamour of daily life. The Journey to Finding Meaning On an annual trip to my parent’s home in Pakistan, I decided to honor its call and spend my 2 weeks identifying a needy cause to which to contribute a portion of my time and finances. I did not have to look far. All around me were needy causes that deserved attention. The old and limping massage lady who supported a disabled adult daughter on her measly income. The tailor who supported his dead brother’s family along with his own, and lost half his income because of the daily power outages in the city. The little flower seller who ran behind me all the way to my car, begging me to buy a single flower so she could feed her starving brother. All these lives tugged at my heart and made me realize that it had grown small in the safe quarters of my cushy life. But the most touching of all was yet to come when I took my children to visit a school for the homeless. In the dingy little classroom, close to twenty little children sat huddled over their textbooks, coloring in...
Real World Positive Psychology?

Real World Positive Psychology?

Is there a role for positive psychology in conflict situations? I have just returned from Kurdistan (Iraq) where I visited several Yazidi families, many of which lost their children or family members under siege near Mount Sinjar this December. This trip forced me to reflect on the role positive psychology could play in conflict situations. While no supporter of ISIS, I can nonetheless see how youth are irresistibly drawn to its membership ranks as fighters. They are offered a salary (important in conditions of poverty where there are few available and meaningful employment opportunities), a sense of belonging with individuals who share a desire for identity and meaning. Moreover, these youth exercise their self-efficacy in ways that are not afforded otherwise, a fact especially salient in societies where low socio-economic and uneducated youth see no role for themselves nor hope for social mobility. Finally, slick recruitment campaigns showcasing jihadi chic allow youth to feel they are part of a larger political and social movement. What do we need to be mindful of? Until these social, political, economic and psychological needs can be met with equally engaging and sustained forces, the future is not rosy. As the world grapples with containing/combating ISIS, what happens to internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, and ordinary unaffected (so far) citizens? How are IDP and refugee families integrated and absorbed into new surroundings when they may not speak the local language and are considered outsiders in a tribally oriented host society? What happens to these same host societies who are forced to accept IDPs and refugees in overwhelming numbers (as is the case in Lebanon...
Same, same, but different

Same, same, but different

Same, same, but different. They are not like us. In fact, I hope they never are. For some weeks since first arriving in Cambodia there has been one question that has plagued me – what is it that makes Cambodian people smile? After intensive internal debate, as well as listening to the thoughts of tourists and locals, there are a great many truths we can learn from these happy, humble beings. What flows through them is undoubtedly the same blood as you and I, and yet, what flows from them is something altogether different. Whether through the horrors of their past, Buddhist influence or having 80 per cent of their population living in rural areas, the Khmer people of Cambodia breed the perfect conditions for happiness. What seems altogether unobvious to begin with, becomes abundantly apparent after some weeks driving, walking, riding and exploring the breathtaking countryside, villages and even cities. These people are never alone. Their hearts run rich with love, for their greatest obligation is not to live a life for themselves, but for their family and wider community. Every dollar they earn, every seed they sow and every meal they eat – it is all shared – sometimes with a few, other times with a lot. And this is in essence what sustains their smile. For “happiness”, as Christopher McCandless famously wrote on his lonely deathbed, is “only real when shared”. Whether five people stacked on a motorbike (the record I saw), a grandson nervously massaging his grandmother while awaiting surgery, or families simply sitting all day by the roadside, together, hoping to sell enough to...