July 21, 2020

Mindful Moments #63 Unlocking the happiness within

Last week, I shared a video of a South Korean woman, Eun Chan, who filmed a goodbye video to her Youtube fans before passing away from cancer. She was diagnosed in April 2019 and her battle ended on May 6 this month. Even through the pain and struggles with the disease, she mustered the energy and courage to leave her Youtube fans smiling. Even in the face of death, she was upbeat, smiling, and compassionate for others.

If she can still smile and get through the day, knowing what’s coming, we can surely be happy, even with what we are going through right now. It’s all a matter of perspective.

First, what we affirm becomes what we accept.

As soon as we utter the words “I can’t…”, this becomes our state of mind and being. When we tell ourselves “I can’t stay in isolation any longer”, the indoors become intolerable. When we tell ourselves “I can’t be alone”, time alone becomes a pain. And when we tell ourselves “I need X to be happy”, we keep happiness away on our own accord.

Instead, we must affirm what we are truly seeking. By telling ourselves, “I am happy/healthy/content”, as sappy as it is, we shift our action and attention towards this new narrative. In a documentary by Derren Brown, those who believed that they were lucky were more aware of their surroundings which led to “lucky” encounters. Those who believed otherwise were ignorant to good fortune, even when money put right in front of them.

Second, our own happiness can only be cultivated by ourselves.

We often look for feelings of happiness, contentment, and love from our romantic partners, families, and friends. When what we choose to feel (feelings are choices as much as they are responses) don’t match with what we expect to feel, we are sad, disappointed, and rejected. Instead of reflecting on ourselves, we blame our dejection on the folks closest to us. And instead of moving on, we try looking for it in other folks to only be disappointed again.

Not only does our definition of happiness change throughout our lifetime, but the actual feeling itself is also intangible and impossible to describe. How do we expect others to truly understand how to make us happy?

Third, what we practice today is who we become tomorrow.

We are so impatient with ourselves, especially in happiness. After reading a book, watching a movie, or attending a seminar, we hope to be radically transformed overnight.

Feelings are like plants. To nurture the ones we want, we have to first plant the seeds in the actions we take today and wait for them to take root. We must also take care of the weeds of other emotions like anger, jealousy, and greed to make room for what we want more of. And just because we don’t see any growth doesn’t mean change isn’t happening. It just takes a bit of time and energy to develop the garden we have always wanted.

Life is hard during this unprecedented time, but what we do today will be the story we will talk about for years to come. In changing our perspective, we have the opportunity to enjoy the happiness that has always been inside of us waiting to be unlocked.

For many folks like Eun Chan, being able to face adversity is an opportunity in itself to practice happiness and making the most with the short time that we have.


Mindfulness in work, love, and the future

In another amazing podcast with Tim Ferriss, he sits down with Jim Dethmer, one of the leading voices in conscious leadership, offers advice on mindfulness, love, and the future.

One of my favorite exercises Jim shares is a series of questions to ask ourselves to address hard feelings as they arise.

  • What is the feeling? (Feelings vs. thoughts)
  • Where is it in the body?
  • What is physiologically happening in the body?
  • Can I let it feel for a minute?
  • What is it here to teach me?

For more Jim, he writes about breaking out of cognition and feelings in his blog.

Why Zoom is draining

Being on a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat, says Petriglieri. Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy. “Our minds are together when our bodies feel we're not. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You cannot relax into the conversation naturally,” he says.

This article by the BBC resonated a lot with me as I struggled to pinpoint why I have been so tired lately. From Monday through Friday, I am on my webcam for sometimes up to ten hours a day performing and speaking to my camera.

One tip that has worked is to learn to disable the camera after designated times or put more focus on the presentation rather than looking at everyone else.

More on COVID-19

Derek Thompson with The Atlantic wrote a wonderful piece on why we need more than social distancing before we can open up our indoor spaces. We should take into consideration the aerosolization of micro-droplets (when folks are speaking, singing, etc.), recycled air (further spreading these droplets), and improving our mask-wearing culture.

NY Times put together a moving piece remembering the 100,000 folks who have died from COVID-19.

Free mindfulness

If you have an AMEX, you are eligible for a free one-year subscription to Calm (meditation app), regardless if you are a new or returning subscriber.

As always, thanks for reading!

Metta (with loving-kindness),
Steven

P.S. If you enjoyed this, share or sign up here: mindfulmoments.substack.com

May 21, 2020

Mindful Moments #62 Adapting to a new normal

Hi friend,

To be honest, getting through this pandemic is difficult. Really, really difficult. We have observed an entire spectrum of folks who have been responding to home quarantines with ease, but also many folks with a lot of difficulties. The crisis text line has seen an uptick of 30% in text conversations last month. Not only has COVID-19 ravaged our nation, mental health will never be the same.

As part of getting through these hard times, we can use various coping strategies to help mitigate and even offset many of the mental chatter that puts our sanity at risk. In a combination of mindfulness and meditation, I’ve picked up a few tips that have helped me tremendously.

The first is practicing gratitude. While it might seem obvious, reflecting on things that are going well amidst chaos allows us to focus on uplifting thoughts that we can further cultivate throughout the day. Not only are we, what we think, but we only accept what we tell ourselves. In thinking sombre thoughts, we will only accept sombre news and events into our lives.

Each day, I write a few things I am grateful for, including health and employment during this time. Some days, I remind myself of the very little things, like having food for the day or even a mind to think and write this email. When we put things into perspective, there are folks around the world who don’t have the privilege or access to the things we take for granted. In practicing gratitude, we become more mindful and aware of the things we have and pay less attention to the infinite things we don’t have or even need.

The second thing is practicing positive self-affirmations. By associating ourselves with the behaviors we want more of - we come to align ourselves with the thoughts and actions we seek. For example, by declaring ourselves to be strong or kind - we become strong and kind. On the flip side, if we say we are depressed and lonely, we only accept the things that prove these sentiments.

With this pandemic, I remind myself that I am resilient, adaptable, and strong every day to put myself in the proper headspace to get through another day of quarantine. While it is okay to be vulnerable (it’s ok to not be strong every day), we must also be vulnerable to courage. We’ll never know what the future holds, but all we can do is to prepare ourselves the best we can, setting up the best headspace as possible.

The third tip is to have faith. Not necessarily being spiritual or religious, but having trust in this process. Nobody knows for certain what will happen, but rest assured, there are folks working tirelessly to come up with vaccines and ways of living that will eradicate or diminish this virus. Unless we’re planning on being a part of this solution directly, worrying or stressing more about the situation doesn’t help create a vaccine any faster. We just need to do the best we can, with the things that are in our control.

Sending you so much love and compassion during this period.


Fuck cancer, not life

Recently saw this video on NextShark about a Korean YouTuber who recorded her final days of cancer - up to the very last day she died. For many of us put in this situation, recording a YouTube video would be the last thing on our minds. But for this woman, it was a moment to shine and smile amidst a war inside her body. A beautiful example that the happiness we seek has been always inside of us all along. (Highly recommend watching this video with subtitle translations on YouTube)

The future of Trump

Again and again, the story that emerged is of a president who ignored increasingly urgent intelligence warnings from January, dismisses anyone who claims to know more than him and trusts no one outside a tiny coterie, led by his daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner – the property developer who Trump has empowered to sideline the best-funded disaster response bureaucracy in the world. People often observed during Trump's first three years that he had yet to be tested in a true crisis. Covid-19 is way bigger than that. 'Trump's handling of the pandemic at home and abroad has exposed more painfully than anything since he took office the meaning of America First,' says William Burns, who was the most senior US diplomat, and is now head of the Carnegie Endowment. 'America is first in the world in deaths, first in the world in infections and we stand out as an emblem of global incompetence. The damage to America's influence and reputation will be very hard to undo.’

Inside Trump’s coronavirus meltdown by Edward Luce for the Financial Times

Celebrating the class of 2020

This pandemic has completely uprooted our lives, especially for those missing out on their important graduation ceremonies. Obama and many other celebrities got together to wish these 3+ million graduating high school seniors a digital sendoff.

And if you enjoyed that, check out a UC Berkeley student’s Minecraft graduation and a father’s attempt at recreating a university graduation stage.

As always, thanks for reading!

Metta (with loving-kindness),
Steven

P.S. If you enjoyed this, share or sign up here: mindfulmoments.substack.com

October 26, 2019

Favorite Books of 2019

As part of my daily commutes, I download books onto my Kindle to keep myself entertained. These are some of my favorite books from this year.

Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life
Image result for robert greene laws of human nature
When Breath Becomes Air
Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life
The Choice: Embrace the Possible

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
Principles: Life and Work

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