Listening link: https://pod.link/asmallgathering/episode/d58f9cc51737f0c5559df9e9ccb7ee69 Heads up: this episode is an interview in Mandarin with my friend, Shiliu. She studied psychology and neuroscience in the U.S and now she is working as a data scientist in Tokyo, Japan.
A heads up: this episode is an interview recorded in Mandarin, a bit different from my previous episodes.
From studying in Canada, to going back to China to work in Beijing, to being a digital nomad in Southeast Asia, then coming back to Vancouver to work, my guest shared with me what methods have worked her to find her path: exploring new skills and new paths, reflecting back to childhood, and spiritual exploration.
“It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”
2. Taking a sit is taking a stand。在这个漫长的参与过程中，self care是保持内心平和的重要方式。一些我自己的self care：每天早上冥想45分钟，写三页morning page（很好的自我宣泄但又不会给任何人带来痛苦）情绪上来的话，用shaking & dancing发泄出去。需要练习的是，在危机出现的时候，及时回到自己的身体里，做grounding exercise，与朋友一起观察,我们的情绪出现在身体的何处，按时吃饭睡觉健身。
National Trauma–Now What? | Jon Kabat-Zinn Specialhttps://www.happyscribe.com/public/ten-percent-happier-with-dan-harris/313-national-trauma-now-what-jon-kabat-zinn-special-edition
A Wise and Counterintuitive Way to Meditate in a Crisis | Lama Rod Owens https://www.happyscribe.com/public/ten-percent-happier-with-dan-harris/314-a-wise-and-counterintuitive-way-to-meditate-in-a-crisis-lama-rod-owens
principle 3 “Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education. However, through compassionate dialogue, help others renounce fanaticism and narrowness”
这一点也与一个播客重叠 How to Call People In (Instead of Calling Them Out) | Loretta Ross https://www.happyscribe.com/public/ten-percent-happier-with-dan-harris/316-how-to-call-people-in-instead-of-calling-them-out-loretta-ross
principle 6 “Do not maintain anger or hatred. Learn to penetrate and transform them when they are still seeds in your consciousness. As soon as they arise, turn your attention to your breath in order to see and understand the nature of your hatred.”
这个可能是我觉得非常重要的一条吧，虽然愤怒会让我们意识到有什么是不对的。但实际去改变的时候，停留在愤怒里，还是转换到一个更mindful的状态，做出来的事情效果可能是不一样的。我相信是内在的平和是可以改变外在的，这一点上我还有想看的书：the inner work of social justice。
Focus on the positive 不要看太多新闻，这是dwell on the beliefs and actions of the foolish。我们做事情是从愤怒状态出发，还是从爱与信心的角度出发
Focus on the goal 长远看来事情一定都是时时刻刻在改变的，没有完美的结局。但是我们的目标，是减少人们的苦痛，减少贪欲等等。
5. Learned helpless myth 习得性无助的“谎言”
“Passivity in response to shock is not learned. It is the default, unlearned response to prolonged aversive events and it is mediated by the serotonergic activity of the dorsal raphe nucleus, which in turn inhibits escape. This passivity can be overcome by learning control, with the activity of the medial prefrontal cortex, which subserves the detection of control leading to the automatic inhibition of the dorsal raphe nucleus.”
Shabbat is the day of rest. In the Torah/Old Testament, God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day. Thus the seventh day becomes the day of rest, Shabbat. In Judaism, Shabbat is observed from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. Different sects of Judaism and different individuals have their own rules to follow.
The most strict version of Shabbat rules stay the same in my understanding:
– no work (reading is allowed but not writing, cannot sign contracts)
– cannot start a fire (thus no cooking, no driving)
– no electricity (thus no phones, tv, internet, etc, you can leave the lights on just don’t touch the switch)
– spiritual time (going to synagogue for service, personal scripture reading time)
– rest (naps and walks are popular Shabbat activities)
– community time (big Shabbat meals with family and friends, cooking is done in advance and dishes are usually kept warm in the oven or heating plate)
In recent years, more Christians start to observe Shabbat in their own form. Their Shabbat usually happens on Sunday and still consists of spiritual time, family time, rest, a break from technology.
Interesting fact since sunset time changes through the year, Shabbat starts a lot earlier in winter due to daylight saving time compared to in summer.
The sabbatical is of course related to the word, Shabbat.
Why do I want to observe Shabbat?
As a highly sensitive person (HSP), I realized last year the exhaustion from overstimulation is very real. 2020 had never ending news and I was drained after each week.
Elaine Aron, who is the pioneer of researching HSP, suggests hsp taking at least 2 hours each day and one full day each week to rest (no chores, no technology). The time is used to let our brain process information, get general rest, and replenish for the new day and week. Honestly, I suck at staying away from my phone at the end of the day. I still need to implement my rest somehow, so weekly Shabbat seems to be a good solution.
I want a pause in my week, a time I can just be in the present without worrying about keeping up with the world(I am aware that is a privilege), a time I can reflect and rest, a time I can be with my family fully, a time I firmly choose to stay away from technology and its endless stimulation.
Last year I have tried out a smaller version of Shabbat. Just by not doing my daily reading for a day, I felt much more rejuvenated after the weekend and more productive during the week.
This year I want to test out if a more full-fledged Shabbat can make me more rested and peaceful.
How will I observe Shabbat?
Most likely I will observe my Shabbat on Sunday, starting from the half-day. I want to work on increasing it to a full day. I want to use Shabbat as an incentive for me to clean more on Saturday as part of Shabbat prepping.
I will still use technology to read for fun but try my best to stay away from the internet. I will allow myself to cook and journal. I am going to avoid chores such as cleaning and grocery. I will encourage myself to meditate longer, to nap more, to take more walks.
I will try my best to document what happened each week on my Shabbat. Following my journey by revisiting this post periodically.
Jan. 9th, 2021
My 1st Shabbat happened on a Saturday afternoon. I used hours looking through my cookbooks for easy recipes to cook for the next few weeks. I did not rush myself and fully enjoyed the experience. I then talked to my partner and we took hour-long naps.
So you are upset or anxious, or overexcited, now what? Here are your potential options to rebalance your emotions.
Generally, we have 3 options while dealing with our emotions: option 1 turn towards our emotions, option 2 turn away from our emotions, option 3 express our emotions.
Option 1: Turn towards our emotions
1A: Work through our emotions with emotion comforting
This is what I am most familiar with. I expect myself or someone else to comfort me: saying kind words, letting me know everything is going to be okay, echoing my opinions. It works sometimes, but other times my ego gets in the way. My ego will tell endless stories and interpretations of the situation. This option usually takes solid half an hour or even longer and usually involves a lot of crying.
1B: Work though our emotions using logic
This is analyzing your way out of the situation. Maybe self-correcting some thinking traps. Proposing alternative understanding and solutions.
There is nothing wrong with it, but it does not work on me when I, a highly sensitive person, am in full emotional tsunami mode. I usually use this option after I have calmed down to notice what might have triggered me this time.
1C: work through our emotions using body calming techniques
This is the whole reason why I want to write this post.
When we are off balance emotionally, we perceive whatever situation we are in as a real threat. We are in full-on fight or flight mode, that is potentially why emotional comforting and logic might not work.
Calm our body down can let the brain and nerve systems know, okay we are safe. Then it’s much easier for our logic and emotion to bridge again.
Some ways to calm our body down:
Exhale twice as long as we inhale. This is one simple exercise we can do to almost immediately calm our nerve system. Long exhale was only reserved for our ancestors who successfully escaped danger, thus it sends signals to our body: we are safe.
Shaking & Dancing
Shake all the excess energy and cortisol out. This approach has long been used by shamanic traditions. In modern days, somatic healing of trauma also has adopted this practice. If you have seen animals in the wild, after they have been chased by predators, they shake in their safe place. That is how they rebalance. Thus shaking & dancing can help us rebalance too.
Exercise and taking a bath also work great as ways to calm down our nerves and rebalance ourselves.
1d: work through our emotions using inner body
I just re-listened to the chapter on the inner body from ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckart Tole.
He stated that when we are facing a trigger, before our mind can go on to project all emotions and stories, turn all our consciousness into our inner body. This way we can reconnect with the peacefulness of the present moment.
I tested it out this morning while checking my canker sore. I tend to over-worry about every little body symptoms I have. I go on and on googling about possible diseases and always wind up thinking: oh what if this is cancer.
This morning I remembered Eckart Tole’s advice. I took a deep breath. Pay attention to my hand, then my entire upper body, then my abdomen, then my lower body. That is how you sense your inner body.
Magically all anxious thoughts disappeared. Maybe it is true that the mind and ego cannot exist in the present moment. By tuning into our inner body and the present moment, we short circuit all the crazy stories our minds could have told us.
Option 2: Turn away from our emotions.
This is when we use shows, games, shopping, and other entertainment to get away from our emotions a bit. There is nothing wrong with it as long as we are aware of what we are doing. Sometimes it is even necessary to move away from our emotions after we have fully explored them.
Unfortunately, this option does not work for me usually. Even with a short escape from my emotions, they come back tenfold.
Option 3: Express our emotions
Finally, we can always express our emotions to ourselves with journaling or express our emotions to other people. Calling for help is a natural build in response to threat and danger.
The key here is I am my emotional first responder. If I start to expect others to fill that role for me, I tend to get more upset if external help is not available immediately.
Meditation is a great container to let our emotions out in a safe way.
Hopefully, this blog post can help you rebalance. Remember it is okay to have bad days and we have lots of options and resources to face them.
Maybe yesterday I had a great meditation day, but I would not expect the same today. Every day is different. My mood and energy fluctuate a lot every day and that is okay. Stop the expectation game. give yourself more chance to mingle with reality. In the end, any kind of meditation day is okay.
2. Have a go-to meditation when you absolutely do not feel like meditating
For me, it is a 5-minute box breathing. No matter how tired or uninspired I am, I can always do a 5-minute box breathing. Then sometimes magic happens like what the ‘2-minute rule’ states. I planned to only do the box breathing, ended up doing unguided meditation for 15 minutes after that.
3. Figure out your own meditation time
Just because every meditation teacher says you need to meditate upon waking up, does not mean you need to do it. Of course, give it a try, but ultimately give yourself the liberty to find out what works for you. A little hint is when you have your brain fog the most. You know that feeling, when you are tired, a little more irritated than usual, you know you need to take care of something but you are just sitting on the sofa. For me, this brain frog always happens in the late afternoon. That is when I meditate and it helps me to recoup some energy and freshness to go into the night.
4. Try exploring different kinds of meditations, then mix and match.
There are 3 big types of meditations: mindfulness meditation, concentrative mediation, and expressive meditation. ‘The Transformation’ by James Gordon is a great read on this topic.
If I need to release a lot of emotions, I always turn to expressive meditation first (shaking and dancing) then I might transition into unguided mindfulness meditation.
Recently I started to do a 5-minute concentrative meditation first before I do my unguided meditation. It helps me to quiet my mind and better enter the mindful place.
It is a lot of fun for me to figure out what mix & match I need today to bring me back to balance.
5. You can be your own emotional first responder
With meditation, I learn to be my own emotional first responder. I never dreamed it could happen. When sh*t hits the fan, I always cry myself into exhaustion and/or ask for emotional support from my friends and partner. Now I always have a safe place (meditation) and a safe person (myself or my higher self or my inner wise guide) to turn to when I am upset. The good news is that this safe place and safe person are always with me. Knowing I can face my emotions alone in a safe setting gives me so much strength and comfort.
6. My emotions are valid but they do not have to control me or guide my life.
Being with my (strong) emotions in the safe setting of meditation for me is a way to honor my emotions, to tell them yes I see you, yes you are valid, yes you can feel that way. After this validation process, usually, the emotions start to fade and my logic starts to emerge again. Then I am in a more balanced state to decide what to say or what not to say, what to do or what not to do.
7. Transcending the good day/bad day binary thinking
Figuring out how to meditate every day has unexpectedly help me to transcend the good day/bad day binary thinking. Now on a bad stretch of the day, I still encourage myself ‘do not give up on today just yet’. Maybe all I need is a little nap or mediation, then I am all rejuvenated again to face the next stretch. Maybe there are not inherently bad days, maybe I just need to figure out how to bring myself back to balance from moment to moment.
8. 100-day project works
For me, it feels like going to a specific playground. I go there every day and naturally I discover how it is different today. I think about playing there a lot so I naturally receive new ideas on what to explore next.
指出陷阱之后，可以帮助他们思考如何用他们的优点来处理眼前的问题。而不是简单的，你要更努力，你要更上进，你要下死功夫。比如我自己，就不太擅长坚持到底把事情做完。这个时候如果有人跟我讲，你要坚持下去，我也感受不到。但是我的优点之一是love of learning，我可以说服自己，完成一件事最后20%，可能会意想不到的收获，学到更多。这个就是strength based parenting讲的主题，推荐一下strength switch这本书。