“It was always you. You are the library where you should lose yourself. The book you should read. The language you should learn. The place you should voyage. The discovery you should make. All the world’s wonder is a song.
The notes and the singer are you.”

– Jaiya John

As we begin to see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, we are experiencing a range of pent-up emotions, and it is finally safe to express hope and optimism while we transition through rebirth and renewal. At the same time, we may be exhausted and even close to the edge of our breaking point. Last week, I found (and crossed) mine. Initially, I resorted to my familiar, not-so-flattering habits but I was acutely aware that this was a pattern that I needed to break. Instead of spinning beyond the point of no return, I stepped away. I left for New York City for the first time since 2019 to catch my breath, take a break and gain new perspective.

Taking time for yourself doesn’t require drastic measure and you don’t need to leave your home to simply stop your life from being on autopilot. Stepping out of my routine brings me closer to myself. Connecting with my friends reminds me of who I really am. Attending to the most under-nourished and under-nurtured parts of myself during the pandemic allowed me to recognize the need to deepen the up-close and personal parts of my friendships and capture the fulfillment that I get from physical, in-person interaction. This includes the true joy that we experience through actual eye contact, sharing a hearty belly laugh, and embracing in hugs when they are most needed.

My friendships, especially when enjoyed in environments outside of my day-to-day routine, remind me to slow down and take it all in. Life is, after all, about the constant push and pull, effort and ease, grit and grace, yin and yang.

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
-Ferris Bueller

When we disconnect from our our screens and our routines, we actually become more deeply connected with the world around us.

It takes courage and proactivity to sever our ties from our busy lives, even just for a moment. But it’s essential to let our minds and bodies off the leash every once in a while, to accept what life has to offer when we take a step back and just breathe.

And when we return to our routines, we carry with us an enlightened view of knowing ourself and what is most important to us: working towards the larger goals of protecting the wellbeing of our loved ones, our communities, and our shared planet.

What I’m Listening To: Happiness Lessons
In this week’s Happiness Lab podcast on Lao Tzu, Solala Towler explores how we can implement the ancient principles of Daoism in modern life. Lao Tzu believed in time affluence, having a wealth of time and space. Speak slowly, listen slowly, breath slowly. Take life in. Reflect and rest. Real life is discovered in the times that we do nothing, the unscheduled time.

Daoism also teaches that, in order to maintain that balance, we need to reconnect with our childlike hearts — a young plant shoots out of the ground flexible, green, and ready to grow about, hungrily drinking in water and sunlight; an older plant is brittle and bowed, breaking easily under the pressure of a single gust of wind. When we free ourselves from the constraints of our routines, we open our minds and bodies to possibility and opportunity.

“Don’t underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear and not being bothered.”
– Winnie the Pooh

What I’m Learning: Tech Shabbat
Filmmaker Tiffany Shlain says that practicing a “Tech Shabbat” every week — her entire family lets go of their phones and computers for 24 hours — is what sparks the most creativity for her. Based on the Jewish shabbat schedule, from sunset on Friday night to sunset on Saturday night, this time is filled with family, love, and inner reflection. When her daughter occasionally complains of boredom on these Saturdays, Tiffany applauds this — boredom can actually be a generative state of mind! It forces us to self-determine and self-actualize because we can no longer rely on the on-demand fulfillment and entertainment that our constantly chiming phones and computers provide to us.