NOURISHING YOURSELF DURING DIFFICULT TIMES
Some friends have asked me to share how I navigate this time of uncertainty. Just like many of you, I am trying to do my best and leaning into “grace” and “mindfulness” to get me through the fears, stress, and chaos. Here are some small things that I do daily to nourish the seeds of joy, peace, and compassion in me. I find that I am more able to recognize and transform my fears and stress when my reservoir of positive emotions is replenished. I hope you can use some of these techniques to water your own seeds of happiness: 1) Start the morning gently and mindfully. I try to wake up way earlier than the rest of the family, around 5:30 or 6 am. When I first wake up in the morning, I smile and recite this gatha to myself: “Waking up I smile. Twenty four pure brand new hours await me. I vow to live deeply and look at life with a compassionate eye.” Then I go down stair to my breathing room to do my sitting meditation for 30 minutes. The more you practice mindfulness, the easier it is for you to access your calming core when you experience strong emotions like fear, anger, or sadness. 2) Get ready and get excited for the day. After morning meditation, I enjoy taking my time to get ready, put on my make up, dress up for work (even though I work from home now). While I get ready, I usually listen to some upbeat dance music (hello Shakira) or a mindfulness talks to get my heart, body, and mind going in the positive direction for the day. I usually make a point to have something that make me feel extra beautiful: my favorite dress, earnings, hair clips, or a new lip color. 3) Savor your morning joy (tea, coffee, breakfast). At this point, the kids are usually up, so I often multitask: making breakfast for the kids, entertaining the baby at my feet, and making my tea/coffee. I usually make jasmine tea with rose petals and try to enjoy every step of the process from boiling the water, to getting the tea in the cup, and pouring the hot water into the tea. I love savoring its fragrance and sweet taste, like a sip of serenity and sunshine amidst all the noises. I usually feel ready to face the world after a few sips of this delicious tea.
4) Work with all your mind and heart. When it’s time to work, I enjoy settling into my work station, appreciate the flowers on my desks, then open up my work email and calendar to get my day organized. I love the feeling of being in the flow with meeting my students/colleagues, planning events/presentations, and collaborating with other staff/faculty to problem solve student issues. I also remind myself to drink enough water, look out the window, and take little breaks to get up and stretch. I also often have to multitask with working and taking care of the kids. This is where my mindfulness practice is really helpful for me because I remember to breathe to release the stress and stay fully in the moment to appreciate my kids. It’s still exhausting, but I am able to find joy and gratitude in it too. 5) Incorporate breathing and walking meditation. I usually have a play list of mindfulness talks/music/bell on while I work to remind me to breathe and smile through out the day. I can’t really go for a walk with my broken ankle right now, but I can still practice walking mediation while walking to the kitchen or up and down the stairs. In fact, because I am forced to slow down, I find it easier to breathe and recite the words “I have arrived” for each step. 6) Make the most of my lunch break. I intentionally decided to only do left over food for lunch to practice simple eating and save cooking/cleaning time. Instead, I use the lunch break to do something enjoyable like sitting in the sun with a good book, do art and craft with my big boy, or chase after my baby boy. This is when I can fully focus on being silly and present with them. My big boy’s favorite yoga pose is “puppy” where you sit on your knees and breathe like a puppy. It’s a total mind and body reenergizer. 7) Feed your joy, not your stress. Everything is always changing and can’t thrive without food. I choose to feed my joy, compassion, optimism, and gratitude with things I read, watch, and engage with everyday. I consume news on TV and social media just enough to be informed but not to the point that fear, anxiety, and despair become stronger in me. I prefer to feed my mind inspiring books, conversations, and music. You can’t offer the best help to others if you are lost in fears too.
8) Reach out to loved ones. I have been having more frequent conversations with my family and friends in Vietnam, long distant friends in the US, and local friends too. I usually call to check on them and just have lighthearted conversations to lift up our spirits too. 9) Practice compassion and generosity. I look for ways to take actions to help others during this time. It can be donating time/money, offering workshops on mindfulness, reaching out to specific people who are vulnerable financially/emotionally. And also offering myself and my loved ones an abundance of grace as we learn to navigate this drastic change in our life. When I feel the urge to yell at someone to clean up the messes for the 10th times in a day or to stop calling my name for the 100th times, I remind myself to take a deep breath and offer them compassion first. It doesn’t always work, but most days, I don’t yell/scream at my kids/spouse, just a lot of deep breaths and long pauses to regain my calm. 10) Prioritize self care and well being. It’s easy to lose your balance during a crisis. I am grateful for each day I wake up healthy partly because I will be able to offer support and care for others. So, it’s an act of love, compassion, and wisdom to prioritize my own well being while we are forced to take on so much more labor and stress. I aim for simple, sustainable, family friendly self care activities like going for a walk, drinking more water, family singing and dancing time, eating more vegetables, getting flowers, going to bed early, taking a shower/bath, or watching a funny show while drinking my favorite drink. And I am not afraid to cry or call my friends for help when I feel overwhelmed. I hope this blog gives you some ideas to try/adapt to enhance your well being and stay positive during this challenging time. Remember to water your seeds of joy, courage, and happiness so they can bloom like beautiful flowers. One moment at the time, we will overcome this crisis!