What’s the Deal with Happiness?

Well, this post is not confined to Turkey (although the picture was taken in Turkey)20150417_171542, far from being a delight but certainly reminiscent of a bazaar. Labyrinthine, with countless possible outcomes. Just like the future, or the present, and even the past, having as many versions as witnesses and even more. My inner voice was awakened after a long “holiday” fully loaded with deadlines, articles, conferences, lectures, research, shouting desperately: “Sit down and think. Deep. And understand.” It started with 2016 (honestly speaking around 11 p.m, before New Years’s Eve). I was preparing my “Wishlist” for 2016. Done it. Concrete and clear goals related to my professional life, including deadlines (yes, again). And more abstract wishes related to my personal life. Among other “things”, I wished for happiness.

The thing is, happiness is not a “thing”, although many people confuse it or replace it with things. Happiness is a very subjective feeling, which according to the “happiness theories” is triggered not by external conditions, but is a personal choice. I agree, it is a personal choice to see the glass half full instead of half empty, but what if your glass is empty or has only a few drops? Well, you can still choose to see emptiness as an opportunity to fill it with your favorite beverage…  If happiness is not a thing, nor other external condition which we cannot control, how comes that when asked about our happy moments we generally name things, persons or situations that made us happy in a certain time of our life? This sounds like a contradiction… Yet, the theory is supported by our failure to relive the feeling as we remember it by recreating those very specific moments, actions, buying stuff or experiences, being around the persons who made us feel happy and good about ourselves in the past.

If something made you feel good once, it should have the same effect over and over again, right? So, what are we doing wrong? We grow. And in the meantime, our needs and means to meet them develop. Consequently, our happiness is periodically upgraded, reaching higher and higher levels and goals,  sometimes impossible or too difficult to achieve. In other words, pursuing happiness can sap all of our energy, strength, resources and … happiness. When our “happiness goal” is to high and painful to achieve we must reset your “system” and get back to the basics. Back to simple things, back to unconditional joy, love, friendship. Back to compassion and gratitude. Back to saying thank you and I love you to those who we care about. Back to admiring the sunset, the snowflakes, the clouds, the play of sun rays and shadows, listening to the sound of rain. Back to playing with pets. Back to listening to our favorite songs, dancing while cleaning up. Back to hugging our family members, talking to our grandparents, calling our friends. Back to wandering and “losing” precious time only with ourselves. Back to dreaming with our eyes wide open.

As Einstein said “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Can you define your happiness? What elevates your spirit? What makes you smile with all your heart? What makes you feel grateful? And last but not least, who you are? or better said, Who do you choose to be and what do you choose to make you happy? 

“Everything in the universe is within you. Ask all from yourself.”-Mevlana (Rumi). You have all the answers, all the tools needed to discover and understand yourself, even though you were not provided with an instruction manual. And no one will write one to fit you perfectly. You are the only person responsible for your feelings, even though it might seem harsh and unfair (Everything is easier when there’s a scapegoat). Don’t get me wrong, you are not responsible for others disappointing you, but you are responsible for giving them the opportunity to do it again and again. There is nothing wrong with happiness. It does not avoid you, nor is it reserved for some privileged persons, or limited. And there is nothing wrong with feeling blue sometimes. You need to let your feelings flow out, whether they are positive-in order to reach others and make them feel good, happy, grateful too- or negative in order to ease your mind and soul, to empty yourself from harmful emotions. Stop searching frenetically for happiness and no matter how awful you feel recall all those things you are grateful for, insist on them and don’t give up unless you succeed to change your mood. In your relation with others stop expecting without asking clearly what you wish for. Communicate and practice empathy. But never forget, you deserve the best. And you can have it.

P.S. It just started to snow. 🙂

7 advices of Rumi/ Mevlana’nın 7 öğüdü

253310015_d3b2db6f8b_oPhoto credits: Nick Leonard
  1. Cömertlik ve yardım etmede akarsu gibi ol.
  2. Şefkat ve merhamette güneş gibi ol.
  3. Başkalarının kusurunu örtmede gece gibi ol.
  4. Hiddet ve asabiyette ölü gibi ol.
  5. Tevazu ve alçak gönüllülükte toprak gibi ol.
  6. Hoşgörülükte deniz gibi ol.
  7. Ya olduğun gibi görün, ya göründüğün gibi ol.

English translation:

  1. In generosity and helping others be like a river
  2. In compassion and grace be like the sun
  3. In concealing others’ faults be like the night
  4. In anger and fury be like a dead
  5. In humility and modesty be like the earth
  6. In tolerance be like the sea
  7. Either look as you are or be as you look

Source: [1]

Celebrate a better world?

happy

As you already know Turkey and other Muslim countries are celebrating Ramazan Bayramı. Even though I’m not a Muslim, and I am not even living in a Muslim country at the moment, somehow I’ve felt the spirit of Bayram since the arife, the eve of the holiday. I’ve turned on my holiday mood and I… even prepared cookies. My inner self has been wearing her best bib and tucker and was kind of surprised to see people going to work, acting normally … as I was expecting to see them celebrating. I felt like it was Christmas! I felt happy that it was someone else’s “Christmas”. Although the “basic” reasons for celebrating Christmas, Ramazan Bayramı or other religious feasts are different, we cannot deny their common message: be human, love others. So why not to celebrate humanity with others? I can already hear my critics: “Wake up daydreamer! We cannot celebrate everyday! We need to earn our living!” I totally agree. But… I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t work during the celebrations of others… Not nearly. All I’m saying is to let the spirit of the holidays invade our souls and act accordingly. People tend to be kinder, more willing to help others and happier during celebrations. So why not celebrate more? And become better human beings.

Of course, in order to celebrate and to feel happy for others, we should know them, understand them. Information and empathy. We all have the keys to them. If we use them properly we can avoid the stereotypical traps, which have the power to separate us. Before judging others we must inform ourselves and instead of being indifferent we should imagine ourselves in their shoes. The more we know someone the less we judge, hate, discriminate, hurt … Logical, right? But not so easy in a subjective world. As humans we tend to blame others for what’s happening to us, we refuse to take responsibility. It’s easier. It’s easier to label people than to understand them. It’s easier to hate than to communicate and search for solutions. Some may argue that life is too short and there’s no time to waste with others. And after all Machiavelli taught us that “the ends justifies the means”… But what are the consequences? Hate, lies, egoism, wars… the metamorphosis of humans into soulless bodies. Following this path we may obtain what we want, but still feel miserable, unsatisfied, as we cannot share our happiness. To a certain degree we already live in these realities. I’m not talking only about unprincipled, bloody politics, although there are many things to be said about but I’d rather keep this blog out of politics, I’m talking also about unhappy, intolerant people, isolated from reality, in a cold, superficial world. Ready to fight back but afraid to communicate, ashamed to show their feelings.

So what does celebration have to do with this? Well, celebrations bring people together. Celebrations make us more human. Celebrations usually celebrate humankind, culture and origins, identity. We can better understand others by observing the purpose and meaning of their celebration, and recognize ourselves in them. By joining them. Because celebrations are usually a source of happiness. Moreover, happiness is a source of “good”, while “bad” seems to be the weapon of unhappy, frustrated people. Who cannot understand. Cannot tolerate difference. Cannot accept their own weaknesses. So they try to destroy the happiness of others. As if happiness would be a limited resource…

When we’ll realize that we are all the same, but painted in different shades, that we have similar needs and dreams, but different ways to express them, and speak up against the imaginary barriers that separate us, we’ll live in a better world, celebrating humanity day by day…

Photo: [1]

Duygular. Aşkistan’dan sevgilerle

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“Aşk bir seferdir. Bu sefere çıkan her her yolcu, istese de istemese de tepeden tırnağa değişir. Bu yollara dalıp da değişmeyen yoktur.” (Love is a journey. During the journey travellers change from top to toe whether they want or not. No one can travel into love and remain the same.) Elif Șafak-Așk, Rule 12

Today I’m inviting you in a unique journey  to Aşkistan, the Land of Love. We will speak its language and learn the recipe of love. Are you ready?

If yes, open your heart, close your eyes and spread your love all around.We need it, we live it. Because love makes us human. Love creates the Good and chases the Bad away. Love prevents us from hurting others. Love draws smiles on our faces and in our souls. Love is happiness. Love is compassion and empathy. Love takes care of others. Love wipes the tears away. Love creates beauty… We can neither enjoy nor recognize the true beauty of nature or people without watching them with the eyes of our hearts. Love is understanding and discovery. We fall in love with moments, places, people…  We fall in love with life. It’s easy, free and beneficial. So what’s the recipe? Love is usually buried in negative feelings, from sadness, hate to egoism, jealousy. All you need to do is to take a hoe and dig it up!

  • Whenever you feel sad add a pinch of smile to your day and you’ll feel better
  • If you hate somebody, remember that you are the one who suffers the most from hate! If someone hurts you, forgive him/her and free yourself from negative feelings.
  • Unfortunately we are all egotists to a certain degree, loving ourselves more than others. Act contrary! Help others as often as possible and the egoism will fade away gradually in the light of the happiness you create to others. You will definitely feel better when seeing the smile on your mother’s face after you cleaned up, the satisfaction on that poor puppy’s face after feeding it, the gratitude of your colleague when helping him/her, the sparkles in the eyes of a homeless child when feeding him, playing with him or teaching him to read or count… There are so many things you can do!
  • Are you jealous on other people’s success or happiness? Then contribute to them! Help them to become more successful and happy. This way you’ll learn to be happy for others!

Now let’s learn some useful words/ expression you’ll need in Așkistan:

  • așk, sevgi-love
  • duygular-emotions, feelings
  • biraz sevgi göstermek-show a little love
  • gerçek sevgi-real love
  • seni seviyorum-I love you
  • sevmek-to love
  • sevgi bütün kalpleri yumuşatır– love makes all heart gentle
  • fall in love-aşık olmak
  • yürek, kalp-heart
  • kalbini açmak-open one’s heart
  • dünyayı daha iyi bir yer haline getirmek– make the world a better place
  • gülmek-smile
  • gülümsetmek-make someone smile
  • mutluluk-happiness
  • mutlu olmak-be happy
  • mutlu etmek-make happy
  • mutlu son-happy ending
  • merhamet-compassion
  • eşduyum-empathy
  • özen göstermek-take care
  • ruh-soul
  • bencillik-egoism
  • bencil-egotist
  • kıskançlık-jealousy
  • kıskanç-jealous
  • üzüntü-sadness
  • üzgün-sad
  • sinir, öfke-anger
  • sinirli-angry
  • gözyaşı-tears
  • acı çekmek-to suffer

 

Photo by: Kessie from Brighton

Why Turkey?

Elif Karagoz

This question is haunting me… ever since I’ve started my Ph.D… Initially it was asked only by others, but lately I have been the one to ask myself: Why? Why Turkey? Of course, I had my answers prepared long time ago and served to the curious ones. The logical answers, starting with the motivation and purpose of my Ph.D. thesis about Turkish identity… and continuing with my attraction to everything “oriental”: landscapes, architecture, ezan, perfumes, olive threes, belly dance, music, turquoise, lokum and I can continue the list for 1001 nights… But I’ve always felt that my answer is incomplete, and maybe too logical to catch the essence buried deep inside me… There must be more, much more, and more to discover. And it is. I know it. Even though I’m not sure if I’m prepared to answer, to express myself, to find a way out from my inner labyrinth. It’s complicated! Really it is…

Today I had a “half” revelation. I missed Turkey, and somehow I knew why. I had a “so and so” day, balanced more in the direction of “not so good”, quite unusual for an innate optimist… I instantly knew what I need, a sweet escape… and my sweet escape is Turkey. The real Turkey or my imagined Turkey? I don’t really know and I don’t care! I’m aware about the fact that I might have created my own version of Turkey, a flawless Turkey, just like young lovers do closing their eyes to mistakes and imperfection. So what?  As far as I  enjoy this “image” or “improved” memory and find in it an oasis of relaxation, escape and dream sparkles it doesn’t matter whether it fits 100% to the reality or not…

So why I love Turkey? Besides delighting my eyes and my taste buds, Turkey works  for my soul as some kind of medicine. For me Turkey is synonymous with happy, friendly, welcoming and relaxed people, with contagious good mood, with never-ending holidays and strong human relationships. No rush, no stress, just smiles! People know how to enjoy life and seem to have a balanced lifestyle. They are not control maniacs, and neither antisocial, solitary, overly preoccupied or depressed, a definition which fits more and more the modern man. When it happens, however, to feel in a bad mood, people express their sadness, anger and disappointment, getting rid quickly of negative emotions. And when they are happy they share their happiness with the whole world! No pretending, no hidding. Everything seems to be easier in Turkey, …that’s why Turkey!

Photo taken by Elif Karagoz @Flickr

Colours of life and…stairs a la Turca

143743If someone asks me “How is your life?”(Hayatın nasıl?) the best answer (cevap) I can give is “Very colourful” (Çok renkli), most of the time (zaman) painted (boyamak) in bright (parlak) and serene (rahat) colours like blue (mavi) or green (yeşil), sunbathed in yellow (sarı) because my first love (așk) is the sun (güneş), splashed with orange (turuncu) refreshing orange (portokal) juice, fired with red (kırmızı) enthusiasm (heves), sweetened with pink (pembe) childish smiles and purple (mor) dreams (hayal), powered with a great amount of white (beyaz) determination (azim)… and only extremely rarely (nadiren) stained with grey (gri) or black (siyah) melancholy (melankoli) and fears (korku).

We (biz) all live (yaşamak) in a world (dünya) of colours, having the opportunity (imkan) to choose (seçmek) the proper shades (gölge) and quantities (miktar) of paint for our life’s masterpiece (başyapıt). We can play (oynamak) with colours as we wish… we can throw all our ‘raw’ feelings (duygu) on the canvas or follow our rationality’s (rasyonalite) rigid methods of painting… What we should keep in mind (akılda tutmak) while handling the paint brush (boya fırçası) is that we cannot erase (silmek) our actions (eylem) and that we have only one canvas… So we should be very careful (dikkatlı) not to waste (boşa harcamak) our time and space on the canvas with shapes (şekil) and shades which do not represent (temsil etmek) us, creating a false (yanlış) and unsatisfying painting, with its colours melting (erimek) in a dark (koyu) and dirty (kirli) mixture. It’s hard (zor) to be the artist (sanatçı) of your own life, to manage events (olay), feelings (duygu) and facts in a proper manner, to take sincere (dürüst) decisions (karar) and to make our mind (akıl) see eye to eye with our heart (kalp). If we succeed (başarmak) our inner painting will be reflected (yansıtmak) in our ‘outside’ world as well, colouring our lenses (mercek) and everything that surrounds (çevrelemek) us. Our ‘outside’ world follows our ‘inside’ world. And vice versa (tersine).

I love colours, and probably that is another reason (sebep) why I love Turkey. It’s a colourful and lively (ruhlu) country (ülke). From its  people (halk), cities, bazaars to its… stairs (merdiven). Everything is splashed with colours. The wave (dalga) of rainbow (gökkuşağı) stairs hit Turkey in 2013, when a retired (emekli) engineer (mühendis), Huseyin Cetinel, painted a massive staircase in rainbow hues in Istanbul. Even though the rainbow stairs became the symbol (simge) of the anti-government resistance (direnme) and of the LGBT community, the original purpose (amaç) was to make people smile (gülmek). Today there are many rainbow stairs all around Turkey, colouring happiness (mutluluk) on faces (yüz) and souls (can).

Image source: [1]

Wandering through my inner bazaar

Istanbul-grand-bazaar-products

Time after time I’m getting lost in the bazaar, searching for something that I cannot describe… going a long way towards the great Unknown… enjoying the journey, without knowing the destination… I’m just like a bazaar, which insted of people and products is crowded with thoughts, questions and possible answers.

I’m a kind of “deep” thinker, having diverse existential problems. Sometimes getting dangerously close to the definition of a “philosopher” (my mother used to call me this way), trying to find “solutions” for the major problems of the humankind, falling into utopian projections, willing to do something with high impact and to save all those in need, feeling disappointed by the selfishness and indifference of people in generally, but in the same time confident that things will change bringing peace and happiness to the whole world….and therefore approaching the definition of whom some may call naive. Yes, sometimes I can be very naive, and meantime, paradoxically, suspicious. Suspecting and interpreting words and events in my own way, finding the hidden meaning of “coincidences”.

My mind is like a playful and restless child, drawing several unrealistic and even non-sense scenarios, explaining a wide range of phenomenons, events, facts in a more or less logical way or  imagining myself and others in different kinds of situations. Like how can some people feel bored when there are so many things to discover and do, how can one decide what is beautiful or ugly, what are other people thinking about, how would my life have been if I had lived in another place or time…or if I had  chosen another path, how can one hurt deliberately another person or animal, what is my “mission”, and the list goes on. Just like a chaotic and surprising bazaar, with many labyrinths and unexpected products, unknown and incredible ways out. Order in disorder. Disorder in order.

My neurons are throwing a party every time I’m traveling by bus or plane, every time I’m alone and having time to waste, every night before falling asleep. And I love to be in this “meditation” mood. That’s why, even though I’m a sociable and friendly person, who hates to eat alone (this occurs only when traveling alone), I really need some time for myself, some “lonely” moments to reflect on my life and on all those odd and unimportant things that come to my mind. I prefer to solve my own problems and questions in my bazaar, without being influenced by others, even though finally I will consult their opinion as well to draw a comparison. I cannot live without introspection, without wandering in my inner bazaar. Regularly.

Image source [1]