Heart skills, coach-trainer Maarten Stoffers calls them. They are the most essential skills to be happy. It’s about learning to listen to your deepest inner self.
‘Extremely irritating,’ he thought of the first meditation retreat he did in Thailand. But also: ‘extremely interesting.’
What was so interesting about it?
‘If you really go inwards, a world of expanding consciousness opens up. You get a different perspective on life: you feel light, spacious, loving and warm. What I experienced there is the total acceptance of myself. Because that is a basic attitude: accepting that you are as far as you are.’
“I quit my job, stayed there for another four months, and did five meditation retreats in Thailand and on the return journey to Nepal. It touched me deeply that you can learn it all step by step: accept, don’t judge, put things into perspective, be happy. You can learn the way to enlightenment.’
Heart skills, what are they?
Back in the Netherlands, he retrained as an environmental expert, because he wanted to help make the future of the earth more sustainable. ‘I gradually noticed that we ourselves are an important barrier: it will not be possible to live a more sustainable life without heart skills. My interest shifted.’
So he became a trainer and coach, specializing in heart skills. What are those? “It’s about the most essential skills for being happy – letting your heart speak and giving yourself and others love. It’s about listening to your inner voices, the voice of your heart, your empathy, but also your common sense, and your intuition, in short: your deepest inner self.’
These are the 6 heart skills
Every heart skill comes in a pair.
Giving and Receiving
‘Giving is of course a core quality of the heart, but on the other hand there is the opposite: receiving. Giving also includes: giving someone else something; and forgive, both yourself and others.
Receiving does not only mean being able to receive a gift or a compliment, which many people already find difficult, but also: allowing trust, being able to accept love.’
Confront and Collect
‘Confronting means that you can give someone or yourself something unpleasant, if you have to. And accepting means accepting the discomfort when someone else gives you something unpleasant.
Many people can gain profit from confronting and collecting, because we tend to avoid the unpleasant things: we prefer not to confront others, and not to take the money ourselves.
Taking Responsibility and Letting Go
“Being responsible for your own life is the most important skill of growing up. You get to a point where you say, it’s nobody’s fault if I’m not happy. It’s not my parents’ fault, not my partner’s or my boss’s fault, it’s not the world’s fault. I am responsible for my own happiness. It is also accepting the consequences of a situation in which initiative is desired. Who is willing to do what needs to be done? It’s about picking up, tackling, grasping, taking on something, standing up for something, connecting with something.’
‘And letting go is the opposite of that. There is always something that you have to let go of, such as a job, or a partner, or your children when they leave home. Stuff you throw away, luxuries that you don’t like, habits you give up for a better world: it hurts a little, but it’s good for the heart, and for the whole.’
Get started yourself
In his book ‘Heart skills’ Maarten Stoffers gives dozens of exercises to master the different qualities.
Get started with this exercise:
give yourself something
- Find out what you would like to receive yourself. What do people please you with? What do you prefer to receive?
- Think about what you like to give to others. What is the best, what do you feel most comfortable with?
- Is there a connection between what you like to receive and what you like to give?
- Can you give yourself something that you like to receive and also like to give?
- What could you forgive yourself? Is there anything you blame yourself more than you deserve? Think of an incident.
- Try saying out loud that you forgive yourself for what you blame yourself, or write it down. That can help you better understand it. How does that feel?
- Choose whether you actually want to forgive yourself. Realize: You can also forgive yourself for something, while still blaming yourself. That can coexist. Forgive yourself.
- You can also forgive yourself three things at the end of each day. If you do this for a week, you will gradually become milder to yourself and others during the day.