Willpower drives me.
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic. New York later became the epicenter of the pandemic and was the center of the United States Federal Government’s attention. I had a work commitment on March 14th in New York City scheduled 3 months prior and I was ready to fly out of Dallas. “What should I do?”, I asked myself.
I was really resistant to accept that I had to change my plans. I have willpower and I like to make things happen as I planned, so I took the risk and left Dallas in the middle of the pandemic announcement. The work commitment went beautifully, I enjoyed the City visiting my favorite places, walking around and having a great time with my kids and my husband.
Once we got back home, COVID-19 was a real enemy and my life turned upside down (as many lives around the Globe). My business had to close in obedience to the Dallas County executive order, my kid’s school turned to an online daily program and to respect others, we decided to self-quarantine in our home due to the fact that we just got back from New York City. Finding new ways to live our lives day by day. Facing challenges, fears and waves of positivity and negativity.
When I rang in the New Year on January 1, 2020, teaching a beautiful class for 26 students at my yoga school, I certainly was not expecting anything like this was around the corner. My mind was filled with hope and dreams for the new decade. As I was teaching on the first day of the year, I was looking at the yoga room and I was feeling grateful that my practice and my teaching were touching so many people’s lives! I couldn’t be a bigger dreamer for what this year would bring to my business! I was ready to take on the year with new projects, trips, plans and lots of commitments… However, the Universe had a different plan. No more full yoga rooms, a social distance ordinance, virtual meetings only, masks and gloves, #stayhome.
With the new reality, my best choice became to accept the new plan and the new days and live in the present moment, having my plans and projects either on hold or canceled. Easy? No. Why?
Because to be in the present moment is one of the most challenging exercises and habits for the human brain. There is an opposite force that dares the present moment and that’s the biggest challenge: it’s called the wandering mind and it’s a strong one. The Wandering Mind is the one that takes us to the past and to the future, to the worries and the fears, unable to stay still in the present and live in the moment, which can result in many effects to the human’s mental health such as depression, anxiety, panic syndrome, insomnia, heart attacks, weak immune system and many others.
The Scientific Journal published in 2010: “A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind” and it read:
“Unlike other animals, human beings spend a lot of time thinking about what is not going on around them, and contemplating events that happened in the past, might happen in the future, or will never happen at all. Indeed, ‘stimulus-independent thought’ or ‘mind wandering’ appears to be the brain’s default mode of operation. Although is a remarkable evolutionary achievement that allows people to learn, reason, and plan, it may have an emotional cost. Many philosophical and religious traditions tech that happiness is to be found by living in the moment, and practitioners are trained to resist mind wandering and “to be here now”. These traditions suggest that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. Are they right?” (Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zin, 2013)
We are now inside our homes where it supposed to be the happiest place in the world, right? But for many (sometimes myself included) it’s not, at least not at this pandemic moment. It feels like a prison and our mind operates under the wandering wire. So even being at home, in our sanctuaries, we are feeling unhappy, anxious, suffering from sleep deprivation, drinking more alcohol, watching more news than before and… life is just not good. Is there any way to escape this mode of operation?
For me yes, there is, and that’s why I wanted to share my little secrets with you.
First, read this from Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zinn, 2013, p. 38-39:
“What are some of the little things we can do to increase happiness and well-being? The main things are to commit to some simple behaviors-meditating, exercising, getting enough sleep-and to practice altruism… And nurture your social connections”.
Simple things. The secret is simple things. And here are my simple things to share with you:
A strong Immune System: our health is our main asset, even more so during this COVID-19 time. Being healthy can start with having a strong Immune System as our main defender, our protector. Pay attention to your nutrition including all the Vitamins that you are taking daily, to your sleep habits, to your body’s activity and get some sun, let the natural light touch your skin, your face, your heart. Everything in life done in small doses and with consistency, equals healthier living. A combination of all these aspects will enhance your Immune System.
Reading good content: select books that inspire you so you can feed your mind and your heart with good messages. This is an incredible opportunity for you to discover new authors, themes and titles that can enrich this moment of your life. I suggest “The Telomere Effect” by Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel, “An Infinite View” by Ellen Tadd (thanks to my friend Valerie Sonnenthal), “Presence” by Amy Cuddy; “Man’s search for meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl and “The Artists Way Worksbook” by Julia Cameron (thanks to my friend Grace Villas Boas).
And of course, yoga! Yoga practice enables our state of presence. If a wandering mind is an Unhappy Mind according to Science, a present and focused mind must be a happy mind. It’s just that simple. Under these COVID-19 times it can be really challenging to feel happy, even being able to feel grateful for what we are and what we have. However, if the happiness is not yet a feeling, we can work towards the state of mind which will be a true gift to deal with the pandemic energy that surrounds us, leaving worries of the future and regrets or missing from the past, out of the picture. Yoga practice can guide us to the present moment. The deep connection with our bodies and minds, feelings and discomforts, enabling the ability of switching modes in our brain’s operation: from a busy wandering mind to a calming and rested state of mind, with incredible results to our health. Yoga is a gentle practice and it can be beneficial at any level or physical conditioning. As we sit still and we pause, we are building up awareness of our body, our mind and our breath. The postures gently done on our bed, couch, chair or on the floor will accommodate sensations in our bodies and thoughts in our minds. Yoga at this unique moment that the world is living shows us the value of being able to profoundly connect with our beings, instead of our doings. We are at home. We are our bodies and our minds essentially at this moment, more than ever, we were gifted with the benefit of pausing and reflect, rest and digest and now we have TIME to make our choice to feel happy.
During COVID-19 I was positive, and I am still. I was not sure if I was positive for the coronavirus as I never had a chance to get tested, but after my NYC trip I felt really ill: back pain, cough, unable to smell or taste anything, headaches. No fever, no pneumonia. For 4 days I was feeling under the weather and concerned that I had the virus, but I kept boosting my immune system, reading good books and daily practicing Yoga. If I had COVID-19, my positivity and strength killed the virus. I will probably never know. But I know that what I did and wrote here is deeply true.
By Christina Siepiela
Co-founder and Teacher at
Kaiut Yoga Dallas School