Life Lessons: Ria Haffar
Ria Haffar is an interior designer turned yoga teacher. She is half-Lebanese and half-Czech and has lived in Abu Dhabi for 14 years with her daughter Iona.
1. Live life without expectations. This is the most important thing I have learnt. If you expect things, you are going to be let down. If you don’t expect things they happen by themselves. I was always being let down because I expected things that didn’t happen. Then I would be miserable. If you feel down you show it; the way you breathe changes, you get ill, you give off negative vibes and that reflects on all the people around you, who then also become sad and aggressive.
2. This precious moment is not going to come again. Live this moment and appreciate the now. The past is gone and you have no control over the future. Live now and be thankful for all those days that brought you to this moment and made you what you are. Include your negative days, your good days, your sad days as well as your happy days.
3. Remember you can change. I used to be extremely hyperactive, nervous and highly strung. As a child I was always slamming doors and when I had my daughter, I would often flip out at her. In fact, when I told my friends and family I had become a yoga teacher they were amazed. I still have my energy but I have turned it into positive energy. I take a step back and don’t shout any more. I am so much calmer, I am more confident and I cope with things so much better.
4. Look into yourself. Self-knowledge and self-control are so important. The I, the me and the self is all important. Not in a selfish way, but if you are happy and treating yourself well, those around you will receive positive vibes. Sometimes I feel I have no energy to teach, but the brain, the “chitta” as we call it in Sanskrit, is all powerful and you can create energy when you need it. Talk to yourself, encourage yourself: above all, be kind to yourself.
5. Learn to let go of material things. I learnt this in India where I actually enjoyed sleeping on a very thin mattress in a room of four people, some of whom were snoring. I loved the simplicity of being grateful that I had a roof over my head. I also appreciated learning to eat with my hand and enjoyed the food better than I did when I was using a silver knife and fork.
As told to Helena Frith Powell
Helena Frith Powell was born in Sweden to a Swedish mother and Italian father, but grew up mainly in England. She is the author of eleven books, translated into several languages including Chinese and Russian. She wrote the French Mistress column The Sunday Times about life in France for several years. She is a regular contributor to the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, The Times, Daily Telegraph, Tatler Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar.
Helena has been the editor of four magazines, including M Magazine, a supplement for the Abu Dhabi-based National Newspaper and FIVE, a high-end fashion glossy, also published in Abu Dhabi. Helena was also editor-in-chief of 360 Life, a quarterly glossy magazine published with the Sports 360 Newspaper in Dubai, part of the Chalhoub Group.
Helena contributes regularly to UK-based newspapers and magazines and holds a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Cambridge. She is working on a thriller set in Sweden as well as a novel about the relationship between Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield called Sense of an Echo.
In 2022 her short story The Japanese Gardener came second in the Fish Publishing Short Story Prize. One of her stories was also shortlisted for the Bridport Short Story Prize. When she’s not writing, she works as a headhunter for the media and entertainment industry for the Sucherman Group.
Helena, who was educated at Durham University, lives in the Languedoc region of France with her husband Rupert and their three children.
More France Please, we’re British; Gibson Square 2004
Two Lipsticks and a Lover 2005; Gibson Square (hardback)
All You Need to be Impossibly French; (US version of above) Penguin 2006
Two Lipsticks and a Lover; Arrow Books (paperback) 2007
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (hardback) 2006
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (paperback) 2007
So Chic! (French version of Two Lipsticks) Leduc Editions 2008 (also translated into Chinese, Russian and Thai)
More, More France; Gibson Square 2009
To Hell in High Heels; Arrow Books 2009 (also translated into Polish)
The Viva Mayr Diet; Harper Collins 2009
Love in a Warm Climate; Gibson Square 2011
The Ex-Factor; Gibson Square 2013
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles; Gibson Square 2016
The Arnolfini Marriage; Amazon Kindle December 2016
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles (paperback); Gibson Square spring 2018
The Longest Night; Gibson Square spring 2019