Embrace the Space

I have been offering gratitude for the time and space that COVID19 has created for me and my family. I recognize that this is not the norm; that for most people this is a very stressful time in their lives. I do feel very deep gratitude for this gift of time and I’m not taking it for granted for one second.

It took me a while to settle into doing less. I kept feeling the pressure of habitually needing to fill my days with things to do. Now that I’m no longer having chaotic-schedule-withdrawal-symptoms I feel more productive and less hamster-wheel-ish.

We’re used to allowing ourselves to do less productive work because we are always so busy hamster-wheeling in our regular lives.

COVID is now shining a light on how little is actually necessary to have a healthy and happy life. How did we keep up those lunatic schedules? If you’re a working parent of school aged kids – ya feel me! How’d we do it all and still manage to leave the house fully clothed and with color coordinated outfits – most days.

Why did I think my kids needed two extra curricular activities back to back on the same day? Why did they need to be in 7 different things?

Music, dance, Scouts, track, basketball, soccer…you know what I’m talking about?

Professionally too— why did I feel the need to go to so many meetings, trainings, conferences and committees?

At first I happily filled my days with digital meetings- feeling good that I was saving so much time since I didn’t have to spend time traveling to them. Zoom fatigue is a real thing! Back to back Zoom were making me cross eyed.

So I started being more intentional again about what I say yes to. Training webinars on how to pivot business practices due to COVID have sprung up like weeds. After attending nearly all of them for the first 6 weeks – I’m now being selective how i spend my time.

I’m back to asking my foundational questions before I say yes: am I doing this to for a purpose or for love? If the answer is no — I say no. And with practice I’m getting better at saying no.

I’m being project based instead of hour based in my work and I’m finding I can get more satisfyingly productive done that way— and in less time to boot!

So here’s my COVID inspired list of must do’s for self care.

  • Let go of the fear of missing out
  • Spend less time talking to a lot of people and more time talking to fewer people more meaningfully.
  • Embrace Space
  • Smile at Simple
  • Find Joy in doing nothing
  • Guilt doesn’t serve. Your heart will lead you to serve, not your head
  • Trust timing
  • Let the sun kiss you daily
  • Walk barefoot
  • Talk to birds
  • Hug a tree
  • Plant a garden
  • Bake cookies
  • Play board fames
  • Sit in bed and talk
  • Get lost in the fragrance of flowers
  • Talk to your plants
  • Nap
  • Rest
  • Sit still for a while
  • Read for pleasure

There’s something truly magical about self care. When you do it with no motive except to love yourself and be the best version of yourself; the ripple effect is felt exponentially to those who you care about. It’s as they say “happy wife, happy life.”

Try it— and let me know what you experience.

Try it with no other expectation except to give yourself the well deserved and much needed space.

Until we talk again; remember to be kind to yourself.

Unprecedented Times are Not Unprecedented

We’re in Day 5 of what started out as voluntary and is now a California State Mandate to Stay at Home except for grocery or other essential runs. No social activity and no gatherings of any kind. In Belgium, a friend reported that they are not even allowed to walk in groups larger than 2 people. We need to come to terms with what this means for us in the long haul. The honeymoon phase has not worn off yet, and some of us are still finding this novel (no pun intended). What if this is our new normal for the next many months? What if, as some scientists advise, we need to maintain social distance for half a year, or even a year?

This is an unprecedented time in our history. But, if you were to look at the history of mankind, there have been many such unprecedented times. Certainly in the history of USA alone, nearly every generation can claim to have had an unprecedented time. This is ours. How we respond to this crisis is what will define us in the history books when stories are written for posterity. This too shall pass; we will prevail. We will come out of this stronger and a more connected society.

As a society we had allowed ourselves to run rampant on our hamster wheels in the name of success. Our kids have never been busier, lives have never been more hectic, stress has never been higher than it is now. The silver lining in all of this is that we have been given an opportunity to do a hard reset. There are many articles being written about the economic impact of this virus on the world, and my love, thoughts, prayers and energy are with the families of those who have lost loved ones, and with those communities who do not have the means or the resources to shelter in place.

I, however would like to address what we can do to raise the collective vibration of the world and therefore channel more love, more light and more prayer toward those who need it most.

Now more than ever before, it is critical to put the oxygen mask on yourself first. There is a good reason airplanes instruct us to do this. If you don’t care for yourself, you are of no service to those you love and care for most. We often feel like we must care for our kids/elders FIRST and FOREMOST even at the cost of our own health. But, who will care for them when you drop from exhaustion or worse? Now’s the perfect time to start a self care routine for yourself. It usually takes 30 days to form a habit, and if the news is any indication we will definitely be hunkering in place for at least 30 days if not more.

Meditation: It’s not just about blanking your mind. It’s about making the space and bringing attention to your mind. There are endless apps out there now that offer free guided meditations. Insight Timer, Calm are just two that come to mind. However, if staring at a candle or chanting a mantra, or even listening to a guided meditation isn’t your jam, simply do my favorite meditation; box breathing. Inhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts and repeat. The simple act of having to count to 4 for each of the anchors will keep your mind from wandering. You can’t count and think about something else at the same time. Go ahead, try it.

Mindfulness: Is simply the act of being more aware of your actions, whatever those might be…you can be mindful in your eating, your interactions with family, how you speak to your kids, how you do your laundry or even clean your toilets. It’s easy to zone out when we do mundane tasks that we’ve done a thousand times before. Bringing your attention to these tasks makes you a lot more single-mindedly focused (which is great for those of us with monkey-mind). As an experiment, instead of reading, watching TV or talking to anyone during your next meal, just focus quietly on each bite you take. Savor the flavors, appreciate the sources of your food, express gratitude that we are not experiencing food shortages and that people are being super civil and kind to each other in the grocery stores (albeit from a 6ft distance).

Movement: Social distancing means we can’t be with our friends, coworkers or really anyone except our immediate family and must maintain a 6ft distance with anyone else we encounter. Thank goodness for the great outdoors, and for those of us who have the privilege of living in small towns where this is feasible, or better yet, have access to miles of hiking trails as we do, this makes it that much more palatable. You don’t have to have cabin fever. You CAN get outside. Walk your dog, take an online yoga class or dance class in your backyard/front yard, walk on the beach, walk or run the of trails (All trails is a fabulous app that can show you what you have in your own neighborhood).

Nutrition: If you’ve never been able to find the time to get serious about your nutritional intake there’s never been a better time. This does not have to be complicated. It can be as simple as first taking the time to track your food intake for a few days and then assessing if what you are consuming is healthy for you. Having a balanced meal means complex carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats. Check out Dr. Mary Hyman’s website for great resources. Here are a few quick things you can do right away.

Minimize the 3 As (acidic, allergenic, addictive foods)

Balance Blood Sugar (reduce processed foods and added sugars)

Support Your Digestive System (include adequate fiber and incorporate a probiotic into your diet).

Take a lesson
from your pet

Rest: Ah, the ever elusive rest. Most Americans do not get 8 hours of sleep a night. It’s a known fact that new parents get less than 5-6 hours of sleep per night; however this number doesn’t change as the kids get older. Stress and other factors continue to keep those Z hours way below the recommended average. Now is a great time to boost this number. You’ve got nowhere to go and nothing critical on your calendar. The first step to resetting your circadian rhythm and your body clock is awareness. Being aware of when you sleep and what your habits are before bed time will help you change this. Most of us can get lost in our social media or news feeds and we tend to just lose ourselves in the black hole of the thumb scroll.

Set a new precedent and put social media or other screen time limits for yourself. Instead of scrolling through your news feed before bed time, which will simply exacerbate your frustration and inability to wind down, get your news first thing in the morning or throughout the day, but limit yourself from reading the news say after 8pm, and switch your reading to be more for leisure.

Pick up a real book, revisit a classic or read those titles you have been saving for ‘when you have time,’ that time is here now.

Take a leisurely bath; again one of those elusive luxuries that we never have the time for. Create little rituals for yourself and your family (our bed time ritual as a family is to play crazy eights or UNO and then do 1 minute of plank, 1 minute of wall sits and as many push ups as we can do!)

As a society we live in a high state of ongoing stress. Stress was never meant to be chronic. Stress triggers certain hormones that the body produces to protect itself, however when we experience chronic levels of stress (and therefore overproduction of those hormones) we may experience chronic disease. We may not have control over the fact that we have stress in our lives, but we can certainly control HOW we deal with the stress.

We Are #EARTHSTRONG

We have an opportunity to support each other, love each other and encourage each other (from a safe 6 ft distance or more) through this situation. Now is a time to reach out to each other more than ever before. Technology like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Marco Polo and Zoom (we are hosting a Zoom party for my daughter who turns 13 tomorrow) all exist to help us shrink this feeling of isolation and can connect us to each other in a more meaningful, less distracted way.

We are in this together and will prevail together. We are #EARTHSTRONG

Manifestation

I’ve been radio silent for a while now. Nothing wrong…just enjoying the BEING PRESENT in my life. Not doing more than I need to. Listening deeply to the needs of my body and my soul.

Working Out
Eating Well
Sleeping Deeply
Meditating Daily
Playing Regularly
Smiling Frequently
Cooking
Reading
Breathing
Laughing
Giving Thanks Daily.

Life is good.
But I just had to jump on here to share some major news with you.

But first…

You may not know this about me, but travel is in my DNA. I have been traveling since before I could walk and my family kept a rigorous pace of travel for the first 20 something years of my life. Thereafter came school, college, responsibilities etc. Despite that, I still managed to travel to new places.

Then career, marriage, home, more responsibilities, kids and even more responsibilities.

Travel took a backseat.

Don’t get me wrong. We go places as a family. We have traditions that I am thrilled we’ve started with the kids. Sedona for Spring Break. Carlsbad for a week in the summer. Camping in Montaña de Oro each summer and visiting family and friends in the Bay Area regularly. I am very excited that this year we’re going to Zion for Spring Break! This is a major bucket list item for me, and I know the kids are going to love it!

But this is different from travel. Travel for me is when we experience different cultures, cuisines, conversations, costumes and truly expand our mind to a new community. Walking the streets of Ulm in Germany or Bern in Switzerland, Brugge in Belgium, Salzberg in Austria, Barcelona in Spain or any other city/town/village/country we’ve never been to before, to soak it in, to live as if we were locals even if just for a week. This is my definition of travel.

That is something I haven’t done in nearly 20 years.
And I miss it!
It’s a physical ache in my heart.
Nothing or no one to blame here.
Just the circumstances of my life.
No regrets, no disappointments.
Just a void that needs filling.

So, this year I started to work on manifesting this. Anything that we truly want, that we want so badly that we can see it, smell it, taste it, touch it, and get emotional over it BEFORE it happens, can manifest for us. I don’t think I need to tell you that this DOES NOT work to wish ill for anyone else. This ONLY works on yourself. This is best used for your and your world’s greatest and highest good.

So back to travel.

Imagine if someone told you that you couldn’t walk anymore.
But there’s nothing wrong with your ability.
Just that you just can’t because of circumstances.
That’s how I was beginning to feel.
Cut off from a big part of my soul.

So, I set to work.

In my meditations, I imagined being at gorgeous locations, places I had only yet seen in pictures. (Luckily this is an easy one to manifest since pictures outside your mind’s eye exist to provide you with an easy reference.. vision board anyone)

And then, last week…it happened.

My friend Mo texted me; “Check your email” she said.

I was in the midst of kids’ night time routines, so I didn’t get to it until a couple hours later.

She was inviting me to go with her as her plus one on what sounded like the opportunity of a lifetime! TO THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS!!!

Now, remember I said, I have traveled all over before I turned 20.

I’ve been to every continent except Antarctica and South America.

Now, I get to cross one very significant Bucket List item off! South America, and in particular the Galapagos Islands.

This is happening ladies and gentlemen.

I dreamed it, I wished for it, I imagined it, I saw it, I visualized it, I expressed gratitude for it, as though it had already happened.

I had NO IDEA where, or how, or when, or with whom this would come about. This dream to go someplace I haven’t been before. I just knew that I wanted it so badly, I could imagine myself on a plane going somewhere with a dizzy anticipation! The kind of anticipation I had when waiting to see if my p-stick would indicate a dark purple line affirming I was growing life inside of me. It was so real in my meditations, in my imagination…not the location. Not the place. Just the ‘going.’ I wasn’t tied to going to anyplace. I just wanted to go!

And so, go I will.

Watch this space in the months to come to see incredible pictures and hear about our travels as they unfold.

I showed up for myself, and quieted my monkey mind, refused the chatter of my analytical brain telling me that this was just impossible.

My entire life is a testament to the words of the great Audrey Hepburn.

“Nothing is impossible. The word itself says I’m Possible.”

Resonance

Since the beginning of September, I have had the opportunity to speak about Putting the Oxygen Mask on yourself first for quite a number of audiences. These varied from parents groups to small business owners and most recently to a group of single parents (mostly moms, and 1 dad!) who are trying to elevate themselves and their families out of poverty through education.

This is something that is so dear to my heart on so many levels. As someone who was born and bred in India till age 21, I recognize first hand the impact of education on someone’s life. My earliest exposure to the power of education was at 12 when for community service, I worked with a nonprofit that provided education to slum children. We would go into the slums to extricate the kids, some as young as 5 – whose parents would rather have them working/washing dishes/cleaning than send them to school for a few hours. My favorite memory of that time is this young girl who curled up in my lap to study. She wouldn’t sit in a chair. She had to sit in my lap. But when the words made sense and she could read a sentence; the joy in her eyes and her face brought tears to my own.

Education is a powerful tool. It is THE ONLY tool to fight prejudice, disease or ignorance.

But I digress…so – a couple weeks ago, I spoke to this group of single parents. The thing that struck me as a shortcoming in my presentation as I reflected later was that of the 2 hours that I had with them, I spent more than 1/2 that time setting the stage about the things we DO to ourselves right now; how we only take the dregs of the day, how we put the needs of everyone in our lives before our own and this includes community and volunteer service too, how we don’t think of our own needs to rest, restore, repair, but would never dream of running our kids ragged the way we run ourselves ragged. I spent so much time articulating the things that we do that we must strive to change, that I feel like I shortchanged them on the tools to actually implement that change amidst a hectic schedule like theirs – kids, work, full load of college classes.

As always, I stuck around after the class to see if anyone wanted to share, ask suggestions for implementing mindful moments or anything else we had covered during the class. Two women came up to me, one at a time. One, from Mississippi said that she was on her own journey of change and could totally relate to everything I had said. She was hesitant to ask, but then took a deep breath and asked if she could reach out to me afterward to share more with me. I couldn’t whip out a pen fast enough for her. I have had so many people give me that time in my own life, lend me an ear, a shoulder, a kind word, that it is my honor and privilege to pay that forward when I have the opportunity. We ended in a hug that was so meaningful to both of us; we stood in the embrace a lot longer than the average 2 seconds and what was powerful was that, while I am sure it was good for her – it was incredible for me. My body settled, I could feel the blood coursing through me and it’s a little hard to describe – but I just felt like I was floating.

The second lady came up to me a few minutes later. She shared that she had not planned to attend class today because she was so tired all the time. But, something made her come and that she is glad she did. She wouldn’t share what, but the emotions in her voice told me that it really resonated with her. She just kept saying that everything I said resonated, she just felt her shoulders fall away from her ears when I put them through the 3-minute box breathing and meditation. And then I was again struck by the urge to hug her. So I did. Now here’s what’s interesting – she tried to ‘complete the hug’ on a couple of occasions – that is, move away after the cursory 2 seconds, she even was patting my back the way you would pat a child’s back, and she kept ‘fidgeting.’ I found myself just standing there in an embrace with her that would not quit. I found myself really grounded, at such peace. And then the dam burst. And everything that she had been holding in released and she sobbed, and THEN she finally settled down and allowed her body to be still.

Truly and completely still.

That’s when we knew it was time to break the embrace.

It was probably cathartic for her, but oh so powerful for me. It appeared that my body and mind were acting in tandem, but without me. I wasn’t driving this. I didn’t make an active decision to hug either of the two women. I feel like my soul responded to their souls because somehow the combination of words that flowed through me that morning resonated with them deeper than they expected.

On a whim, I just looked up the word Resonance. I am not sure why I chose this to be the title of this blog post. But – apparently it is perfect for what I want to share.

res·o·nance: PHYSICS the reinforcement or prolongation of sound by reflection from a surface or by the synchronous vibration of a neighboring object.

I realized in that moment that I had shared exactly the way this group needed to hear. That in order to implement any of the tools, they had to understand that I understood them, that I may not be a single parent, but I too have worked myself to the bone.

I too have worked so much and so hard that when I could finally take a small breather, I fell sick. And that this happened over and over again for years.

I too have put the needs of everyone around me first, because that is what I was programmed to do.

I too have felt the guilt of taking time for myself.

I too have worked harder than needed, just because I thought I had to prove myself, but then never just worked hard. Continued to give 200% even when there was nothing left in me and I was making myself sick. There is something to be said about doing an excellent job, but doing it in balance.

I realized that in just sharing my story, my story of how I got here in the first place; being an immigrant myself, knowing no one, not ever having lived alone, working 3 jobs, studying by night (albeit, no kids at the time)…all this was necessary to give me the credibility, that I had walked in their shoes, that I knew what it felt like to be bone tired and still have to keep going, that I knew what it felt like to work through illness not because I wanted to, but because if I didn’t work, I wouldn’t get paid. That I knew what it felt like to feel like I had my back up against a wall with no way out.

I had been there.

And now I am here.

I work hard, but I don’t kill myself.

I take time to care for myself.

If my body needs rest.

I rest.

I am more present, more joyful, more grounded as a result, and this makes me a better woman, wife, mom, professional and community leader. I work smarter and produce better results.

I am never busy, but always productive (this is just a choice of language…and this choice DOES actually make it so that I have stopped feeling like I am on a hamster wheel accomplishing nothing, but being busy all the time!) I did a short video years ago to share what I mean.

I feel so grateful to be able to share on a topic that I love and have come to deeply appreciate as a result of my own journey with self-care and self-awareness.

It is always interesting then, when the Universe gives you an opportunity to practice what you preach. More on this later.

If you have a story about how you started to embrace putting the oxygen mask on yourself first, I would love to hear about it. Please comment below or send me a private message.

Remember to be kind to yourself.

Eat Mindfully the Length of One Song

My Mindful Meal

This week, I was a speaker on my favorite topic; Putting the Oxygen Mask on Yourself First for Ventura SCORE, this wonderful nonprofit organization that provides mentorship for small business owners from retired business executives who donate their time. The topic was of course on Work-Life Balance. I am curious to know what that means for you? What do you conjure up when you hear those words?

Anyway, we were three speakers, each with 30 minutes to share on our topic. What I found wonderful was how, the lineup had been decided even before any of us had submit our topics, and yet we were lined up exactly in the right order that you would want to hear the content we all delivered.

Speaker 1: Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time
Speaker 2: Living Your Life to Your Fullest Potential (all about different ways to harmoniously balance stress/long work ours etc.)
Speaker 3: ME! Putting the Oxygen Mask on Yourself First

I will admit, I was nervous. Now, I have LOVED public speaking for over a decade, and can talk in any sized room whether it be 3 people or 300 people. BUT, I was still nervous. I’ve been a fundraiser for so long, that I can speak on that topic ad nauseum, but until lately my forum for speaking about Oxygen Mask has been all virtual/digital. You’ve all heard me go on about it here, if you know me personally, you have heard me share face to face, one to one, if we are friends on social media, or if follow my page The Breathing Space on Facebook then you have heard me talk about this.

This was only the second time that I had spoken about this to a live audience and had never done the presentation along with the slides I prepared; only because they asked me for slides! hahahah!!

Anyway, I had decided that I would just go up and be me. And it turns out, that when I have an audience, I can be a ham, I can be funnier than I think I am in real life, and I can totally be myself. The response was wonderful; people were laughing, participating, sharing and asking questions. What more can a speaker want?

OK, so what has this to do with the title?

That afternoon, I went to Namaste Spiceland to get chai and a simple lunch. As I was waiting for my meal of daal, roti, sabji I tuned into the music that they were playing over the speakers. It was of this deep voice, the voice of Amitabh Bachchan – India’s most iconic movie star whose stardom transcends generations. I couldn’t follow along with the Hindi, but just that sound of his voice, and the words that I couldn’t make out, but recognized from the movie that I loved so much as a child. My food arrived, and I sat enjoying it, savoring the hot, sweet spiced milk chai absorbed in the music of my youth. I didn’t realize the impact of that music on my soul, till I started to tear up as I listened to the soothing voice of my favorite Bollywood star. The food, the music, being surrounded by familiar smells, sounds and sights of my childhood and youth; I was completely immersed.

So what has this to do with the presentation that evening on Oxygen Mask?

So glad you asked. Let me tell you.

As we were talking about Mindful Minutes, I asked for examples of how they could incorporate what we were discussing into their own lives. How can you incorporate mindfulness into your over-committed days someone raised her hand and volunteered; when you eat, just eat. Just savor the foods, don’t talk, don’t watch TV, don’t work, worse of all, don’t drive!

YES! I exclaimed! YES indeed.

And I was able to recount my afternoon experience of my mini trip to India through all my senses.

Believe me when I tell you, if I am not with a donor or a potential donor, most afternoons my lunch is a protein shake drunk at my desk. I work right through lunch; but not because I am trying to over work – because I allow myself to leave work earlier as a result. It’s worth the trade off to be with my kids earlier.

But here’s what I really want to share. Yes, life is busy. Yes eating at the table is a luxury.

But what if you did that once or twice a week, JUST for the duration of ONE SONG (2-3 minutes)? Imagine this – you get to pick out your favorite song/s and then just as you sit to eat, you turn on the music — and allow yourself to be immersed in the experience of food and music.

So today’s call to action for you is to see if you can, just even once sit still and eat, for the duration of one song (remember it’s just 2-3 minutes) before you jump up to do 15 other things.

Will you write and tell me if you try this?