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