Letting Go is a Lifetime Practice

One year ago today, my dear Grandmother, Iris, passed away. She was 92 years old. Over the last five years, with my mindfulness practice deepening, I was able to truly appreciate Grandma and value each moment I got to spend with her whenever my travels took me back to Melbourne. She became a dear friend. My favourite memories are our coffee dates, going for short walks or to her local library where everyone knew her, watching murder mystery shows together, and enjoying our favourite treat - licorice!

I remember the morning of my flight from Toronto to Melbourne like it was yesterday. I received a call out of the blue from my mum back in Australia. She said, “It’s bad, sweetheart. Grandma had a severe stroke. She’s unconscious in the hospital and the doctors say she is not going to wake up.” Naturally, I instinctively felt helpless with so much grief.

Thanks to the mindfulness practice, over the course of the arduous 18-hour journey on the plane, the first half of the flight was calming myself down with breathing. As breathed deeply, I breathed with Grandma and talked to her, letting her know that it was okay if she needed to leave before I arrived in Melbourne.

When Hang and I arrived in Melbourne, Grandma was still unconscious in the hospital but breathing on her own. We spent the morning with her, holding her hands, massaging her feet and talking to her. We left in the afternoon. The next morning, my Grandmother quietly passed away with my aunt by her side.

I’m so grateful for my mindfulness practice for helping me through this challenging time.  I learned so much about grief and how to take care of it and be there for my loved ones. My compassion and understanding for others has grown as I learned to take care of my own grief and sadness.

As a reflection of taking care of my sadness and grief over the last 12 months, I’d like to share four things I have learned along the way.

1. Letting Go is a Lifetime Practice
I remember hearing “Letting go is a lifetime practice” from my partner, Hang, when she lost her sister to brain cancer in 2017. It comforted me to know that I didn’t ever need to be able to fully let go of Grandma or my sadness of missing her. There will always be moments when I think of her and miss her., and that is always okay.

2. It’s Okay to Cry and to Feel Sadness as a Grieving Process
In the weeks following Grandma’s passing, I would remind myself of this, and give myself permission to cry and feel sad, to need a quiet day at home, to listen to my needs. For that first month, I cried every time I stepped onto my yoga mat. Most often I cried in savasana but the tears also came in the middle of Warrior 2 pose, or as soon as I sat down for meditation. And now, one year later, I still give myself this permission to cry or feel sad. Some days and weeks, I think of Grandma a lot, and when the tears come, I let them come. I breathe with my sadness to embrace it and calm it. I know that it’s okay to feel sad and cry, it’s part of the healing process, and part of being human.

3. Time Doesn’t Heal, Breathing Heals
I heard this a few months ago in an interview with one of my favourite monastic teachers from Plum Village, Sister Dang Nghiem. At the time I was feeling sadness and missing my Grandmother and wondering why it wasn’t getting easier with time. Sister Dang Nghiem reminded me that time doesn’t heal, but coming back to my breath when feeling sad heals. This teaching has really helped me the most. When I feel sad about Grandma, I place my hands on my belly or my heart and breathe deeply to give myself lots of love and understanding, and calm my strong emotions.

4. We Can Continue to Live Joyfully for Our Loved Ones
Losing a loved one is always a reminder for me that life is short. Part of my mindfulness practice is to read The Five Remembrances and one of them is, “I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.” This remembrance is not to worry about dying one day, but a reminder that we are alive now and we should enjoy our aliveness each day. A reminder to enjoy the preciousness of spending time with our loved ones. My Grandmother continues in me each day. When I walk, she is also walking with me. When I breathe, she is breathing with me. Sometimes I invite Grandma to join me when I practice walking meditation or eat her favourite licorice, “Grandma, come and enjoy this licorice with me”. I see myself as her continuation and feel proud that I can continue her love and enjoyment of life.

Dearest Grandma, thank you for being such a precious and wonderful grandmother. I love you and I’m proud to be your granddaughter. I know you are in me, and it makes me very happy. With all my love, Sarah.

Sword Sequence

Dear friends,

This sword sequence is dedicated to all the Plum Village friends who were brave enough to get up early to practice with us at exercise time at retreats.

I recreated and modified this sequence to accommodate all levels of practitioners. Please take some time to do a proper warm up first before proceeding with the sequence.

Remember to think of anything that is not serving you as you “cut” it away.

Enjoy. And don’t forget to smile while you practice.

With peace,
Hang



8 Pieces of Brocades - Ba Duan Jin

The 8 pieces of brocades are eight individual mindful movements (exercises) that are practiced in a silken and smooth way. Over time the breath will be deep and slow, and you want to coordinate the slow movement to sync in with the breath.

The 8 Brocades’ history and origin are still unclear but we have an idea that it was mentioned in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) text. What is clear is that the practice has helped many practitioners improve their overall well being, balance, strength, focus and concentration. Today, there are many 8 Brocade traditions and forms but its essence remains the same. Here’s a version I learned while living in southern China.

Enjoy your practice. May your practice flourish in happiness and joy,

Hang

​What is the Difference between Yin Yoga & Restorative Yoga?

restorative-yoga-yin-yoga-difference

This is a question we are asked often. Aren't yin & restorative yoga the same? The simple answer: no. 

Yin and restorative yoga are two very powerful and yet different physical practices. Sometimes they are confused because both practices are slow and methodical, with long-held poses (2 to 10 minutes).  

Physically they are very different. Here are the differences:

Yin yoga targets the connective tissues, such as ligaments, bones and joints. Because of the stillness and time spent in the poses, the practice can be challenging and empowering on a physical, mental and emotional level. Yin also focuses on opening the meridians or internal energetic pathways of the body.

Restorative yoga focuses on muscle relaxation. It is a calming and gentle style of yoga that uses props (bolsters, blocks and blankets) to fully support the body. This healing yoga practice restores energy in the body, releases long-held tension, and facilitates stillness and calm. Some yogis refer to restorative yoga as the dessert of a buffet. Hang and I like to call it ‘hidden meditation’. as it allows the body and mind to rest

Both yin yoga and restorative yoga are beautiful practices and much needed in our busy lives. We encourage you to find yin and restorative yoga classes at your local studio. If you’re interested in deepening your practice or would like to learn how to teach yin or restorative, join us at one of our upcoming trainings.

A Song Called "Breathe & Smile!"

Mui Ne saigon om retreat

After the last yoga practice of our 6-Day Yoga & Mindfulness Retreat in Mui Ne in October 2018, our wonderful group of retreatants performed this heart-touching song for us. Little did we know that they had been spending time together in the evenings to write the song and practice it together. Thank you, dear friends for such a beautiful song and watering our seeds of joy!

Join us at our next Vietnam Yoga & Mindfulness Retreat! Registration is now open.

BREATHE & SMILE

First we came to Ho Chi Minh, rode the bus to Mui Ne
Australia and Netherlands and also USA
Canadians came furthest but it was worth it just to...
Breathe and smile, breathe and smile,
Breathe and smile, smile and smile and smile!

We like the lotus. We like the playfulness
We like the Vata, we like the Qi Gong
We like your teachings, they make us understand to...
Breathe and smile, breathe and smile,
Breathe and smile, smile and smile and smile!

We came to Saigon in search of inner peace
Farewelled our families to find some sheer release 
The mindfulness is working if we remember just to...
Breathe and smile, breathe and smile,
Breathe and smile, smile and smile and smile

We like the focus we like the challenges
We like the Pitta, we like Utkatasana
We like your stories ‘cause they inspire us to...
Breathe and smile, breathe and smile,
Breathe and smile, smile and smile and smile!

We like savasana, and even suffering
After we do Qi Gong we all sit in a ring
To listen to Hang’s wisdom while Sarah teaches us to...
Breathe and smile, breathe and smile,
Breathe and smile, smile and smile and smile!

We like smile-asana. We like the Kapha too
We learned to bow and bend and all about our poo!
We like your soothing voice when you sing to us…
Breathe and smile, breathe and smile,
Breathe and smile, smile and smile and smile

Downward dog and Yogis choice, and food that we adore
We eat too much and drink too much and can’t get off the floor
Our response is Namaha, and then we simply need to...
Breathe and smile, breathe and smile,
Breathe and smile, smile and smile and smile

Peace and joy and gratitude we all feel very blessed
Hang and Sarah live and love, they simply are the best
Namaste to everyone and don’t forget to always...
Breathe and smile, Breathe and smile,
Breathe and smile, Breathe and smile,
Breathe and smile, Breathe and smile, and smile and smile and smile

Louisa’s Yoga Teaching Training journey

louisa-walsh-blog-yoga-teacher-training-saigon-om

If I had told myself one year ago that I would be a qualified yoga teacher and teaching three classes a week I would never have believed myself.

But here’s the amazing thing - that is all now true. After moving overseas with my husband and two small children in 2017 my focus for the first year was on getting us settled. However, I soon realised that once I had taken care of everyone else my own wellbeing was suffering. I had a left behind a corporate career and a friendship group that filled much of my time and life. 

As I began practicing more yoga I was able to build my inner peace and happiness, but the opportunities to get to a class were limited with the commitments of a young family. 

After a chance conversation with a former saigon om alumni, I found out more about saigon om and Sarah and Hang. After jumping on their website and saw they were holding an upcoming teacher training in Ho Chi Minh City I felt this was not a coincidence, so I took the plunge and decided to sign up. Initially, my main goal for joining the program was to gain enough knowledge in yoga to confidently have my own self practice to fit in around my family’s schedule.  Little did I know I would gain far more than that!

Walking into the beautiful Mandala Wellness grounds on my first day of YTT I knew I had made the right decision. Over the course of the next 6 weeks I made incredible friends, learnt an awful lot about yoga and anatomy but perhaps most importantly I learnt even more about myself. Sarah and Hang’s incredibly knowledgeable, warm and inclusive teaching style and carefully structured course gave me the life long gift of mindfulness. I can safely say that mindfulness has changed my life, it has made me a better person, friend, daughter, partner and mother. I am happier, calmer and more peaceful. 

I also realised about two weeks into the course that I wanted to teach yoga. The final section of the program is tailored to support each of us in guiding a class and upon graduation I felt extremely well equipped to head out and share my practice with others.

Looking at my life now a year on I am a different person - happier, healthier and mindful - and a lot of that is entirely down to crossing paths with Sarah and Hang and having the gift of joining their YTT program.

Corporate Mindfulness & Qi Gong Training

corporate-mindfulness-qi-gong-training-vietnam

In early January 2019, we traveled to Dalat, Vietnam to offer training to corporate managers of a world renowned company. We shared mindful practices such as meditation, Qi Gong, walking meditation and other awareness exercises. We also shared with these busy managers how to simply incorporate these practices into the workplace. By the end of the day’s training many shared these deep yet simple insights into what they need for their family life and self-care. Here are some of the insights they shared:

FAMILY

  • Speak lovingly to daughters - not out of anger

  • Create peace in family - be a good example for my children

  • Be calm and less angry with children

  • Give more love to my children

  • Share and communicate better with my loved ones

  • Invite my children to practice meditation and yoga with me

  • Bring mindfulness into work, family and children

  • 5-minutes of daily mindfulness practice with my family

SELF-CARE

  • Create a sitting/breathing space at home

  • Take care of my short temper (perfectionism)

  • Take care of strong emotions at work/home

  • Reduce my thinking

  • Stop and breathe when strong emotions come up

  • Practice smiling more frequently

  • Feel freedom on my in and out breath

  • Put mindfulness practice into my daily life

  • Exercise more for health and take care of my body

  • Deep relaxation before sleeping and think of the good things that happened in the day.


Can you relate with any of the insights shared here? If you can, you are on the right path of well-being and we encourage you to add mindful practices into your daily life. Life is just too short to not enjoy it. If you need guidance, please feel free to contact Hang and Sarah at hello@saigonom.com.


May you be well and happy,
Hang & Sarah

A Song Called "Dear Hang and Sarah!"

Our spiritual family, the Passionfruit Sangha!

Our spiritual family, the Passionfruit Sangha!

On the last day of yoga teacher training in Kingston, Ontario. our lovely group of yoga teacher trainees, the Passionfruit Sangha, wrote and performed a song dedicated to us and the training. Both Hang and I were overwhelmed with love and gratitude for their song and the wonderful month we had shared together. We invite you to breathe and smile as you enjoy watching the video and reading the lyrics below.

DEAR HANG & SARAH

Dear Hang and Sarah, we’re full of gratitude
Dear Hang and Sarah, we love you, yes we do!
Thanks for the guidance and all you’ve given us
The asanas, the pranayamas, anatomy, Qi Gong and gathas

Dear Hang and Sarah, you’ve shown the path to bliss
Dear Hang and Sarah, your presence we will miss
Thanks for the sage advice, the chance to learn and grow
The sharing and the caring and the loving and the mindfulness

Dear Hang and Sarah, yoginis we are now
Dear Hang and Sarah, you have shown us how
To love our inner selves and our bodies too
With forgiveness and awareness, loving kindness and sweet gratitude 

Dear Hang and Sarah, your teaching is the best
Dear Hang and Sarah, to that we all attest
Thanks for the wisdom and all the joyfulness
The breathing, and the walking and the mindful eating, oms and chanting

6 Things to Look for in a Good Yoga Teacher

_MG_4367.JPG

Yoga is accessible nowadays and with many yoga teachers available you’d think it’s easy to find a teacher that’s right for you. But it isn’t that easy. In some ways it depends on where you are on your yogic journey. Naturally you want a trusted teacher that can help you grow, be it in a physical, emotional or spiritual way.

Whenever Sarah and myself travel with our wellness school, saigon om, I often get asked “How do you know a good teacher when you meet him/her?”  The answer is it all depends as I mentioned before. It depends on where you are in your journey. Here are some general guidelines that I use for my own teacher-seeking journey.

1) Friendliness
According to Yoga Journal, the number one thing students look for in a yoga teacher is friendliness.  Is your teacher approachable and welcoming before, during and after class?

 2) Walks the Talk
A good teacher shares from her heart and practice rather than from her mind or ego.  When she speaks, you can hear the loving teachings from her heart. You may even find her class joyful and empowering. You naturally gravitate towards her presence of peace and calmness.  

3) Works the Room
We emphasize this point in the Art of Teaching module of our 200-hour yoga teacher training program. The teacher needs to know his yoga stuff, which means he has a solid idea of his teachings from sequencing and assisting (if he’s comfortable with touch), to class flow, breath cues and safety while observing and maintaining a sacred and safe environment for everyone. More specifically, a good teacher is always observing his class in order to give options and permission to accommodate all bodies in the class at all times. In short, the teacher needs to accommodate and know his anatomical alignment, breath and mindful cues.

4) Knows How to Hold Space
A good teacher is strong in her practice and is capable of holding space for you with his presence to  be, breathe, let go, reflect, and cultivate love, peace and joy. His voice is caring, loving, and dynamic. On a side note, his playlist should also reflect this. Remember that yoga is a sacred place of practice. Not a rock concert.

5)  Makes Class Enjoyable
It can get boring and a bit painful if you feel “stuck” in a room full of strangers for 75 minutes; meaning you are not enjoying class. When the teacher is fully present, she knows how to hold space in an inclusive way so you feel a sense of belonging in class, and she makes the class fun and lighthearted.

6) Is Always Growing
A good teacher is someone that you would likely be learning from for the most part of your yogic journey. “But wouldn’t you get bored of hearing the same stuff from the same teacher?” You ask.  Not if your teacher is also on a learning and growing journey and joyfully brings you along to help deepen your journey too. My belief is, a good teacher is always growing with her students. 

Happy teacher-seeking,
Hang

Cross Training is Important

Hang at the gym

I spent over two decades as a fitness instructor and mixed martial art competitor and instructor. I’m a big advocate of “cross training” as well as “functional training”, terms that mean practicing other exercises than your usual favourites and training in such a way that it is useful in your daily movement.  It is well known in the fitness world that repetitive injury is quite common if an exercise is being done regularly. Cross training is smarter when you include all 6 components of fitness which are: cardiovascular, strength, flexibility, agility, endurance and balance.

As a yoga educator, I continue to advocate cross and functional training to help yogis practice with minimal injuries and have fun. In the yoga world, I mean practice both intense yoga such as Ashtanga, power, or vinyasa and compliment it with the less intensive restorative, yin and gentle yoga movements.  To help students stay physically and emotionally strong I also encourage weight training, cardiovascular activities and mindfulness to embrace the “middle way” that is often missing in fitness or even some yoga practices and thus in life.

In my travels as an educator I have noticed a lot more injuries are surfacing in the yoga world. Such injuries often occur at the major joints like the wrist, shoulders, hips and knees and mainly from repetitive movements – a good reason to practice a variety of styles of yoga and fitness programs.  

For example, if you only have time for 4 classes a week, a good mix is 2 power or vinyasa, 1  restorative or yin, and 1 gentle class.  This not only gives your body a chance to rest and heal but also prevents injuries. If you still enjoy going to the gym like me, you can add in at least 1 session of weight training and 2 sessions of cardiovascular activities a week to keep the muscles and the heart, strong and healthy.

Most importantly, whatever you chose to practice, ask yourself, “Am I enjoying this?”  

Happy cross training!
Hang

What is Qi Gong?

Qi Gong is a 4000 year-old ancient Chinese discipline that has its roots in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is a discipline that involves the mind, breath, and movement to create a calm, natural balance of energy that can be used in work, recreation or self-defense. Qi means energy and gong means work or practice in our case. So, to find balance and increase energy in body and mind, one needs to have a diligent practice. Unlike yoga, Qi Gong is done in slow movements while standing up. It is ideal for people of all ages. 

There many many and many styles of Qi Gong. To be diverse and inclusive, we also practice and teach a variety of styles, a combination of traditional and modern Qi Gong, some of which I crafted from my personal practice and experience.  

In general, there are two categories of Qi Gong:
1) Energy activation and release – just as the name says, to activate and wake up our energy and to release stuck or stagnant Qi in the body and mind
2) Movement with breath – this can be as simple as the Shaolin 8 Brocades or as detailed as the complete 108 form of Yang Tai Chi. This can be very meditative and mindful.

One can spend her entire life practicing and learning Qi Gong for a deeper spiritual practice. On the other hand, one does not need to know anything about it and can experience a change in energy level as quickly as after a 10-minute energy activation and release.  To show you the magic of a 10-15 minute practice, please follow along this short video of me practicing in Mount Tremblant in -10C. The most important thing is that you enjoy the practice and smile a lot.

Thank you for visiting saigon om. May your practice flourish with joy and happiness.

With gratitude,
Hang

What is Interbeing?

what-is-interbeing-thich-nhat-hanh-mindfulness

“Interbeing: If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are. “Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter-” with the verb “to be,” we have a new verb, inter-be. Without a cloud, we cannot have paper, so we can say that the cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are.

If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact, nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look, we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see the wheat. We know the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way, we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.

Looking even more deeply, we can see we are in it too. This is not difficult to see, because when we look at a sheet of paper, the sheet of paper is part of our perception. Your mind is in here and mine is also. So we can say that everything is in here with this sheet of paper. You cannot point out one thing that is not here-time, space, the earth, the rain, the minerals in the soil, the sunshine, the cloud, the river, the heat. Everything co-exists with this sheet of paper. That is why I think the word inter-be should be in the dictionary. “To be” is to inter-be. You cannot just be by yourself alone. You have to inter-be with every other thing. This sheet of paper is, because everything else is.

Suppose we try to return one of the elements to its source. Suppose we return the sunshine to the sun. Do you think that this sheet of paper will be possible? No, without sunshine nothing can be. And if we return the logger to his mother, then we have no sheet of paper either. The fact is that this sheet of paper is made up only of “non-paper elements.” And if we return these non-paper elements to their sources, then there can be no paper at all. Without “non-paper elements,” like mind, logger, sunshine and so on, there will be no paper. As thin as this sheet of paper is, it contains everything in the universe in it.”

― Thich Nhat Hanh

My Week at a Mindfulness Wake Up Retreat

Plum Village

Dear Respected Thay, Dear Friends,

A Kingston summer time smile to you today.  Please take a deep breath, offer yourself a smile and be at ease as you read about my wonderful experience and highlights at the Wake Up retreat in mid-June 2018 at Plum Village Blue Cliff Monastery. The retreat was for young people on the path of mindfulness.

Upon arrival at the monastery, I felt a deep sense of ease and peace; not only because it’s a sacred space of practice but also the energy of mindfulness was penetrating deep within me and around me like a warm down blanket. I remember stopping to take in deep breaths of fresh pine and birch tree air - a wonderful moment of arriving.

There were about 100+ practitioners in attendance. After day 2 of the retreat, we became closer in friendship and support, especially in our dharma family, the Cheeky Cherries. Many tears of release and revelation were shed in our circle of sharing.  As we peeled away layers of letting go and insights, along came layers of understanding and loving kindness for ourselves and one another. It was like “magic” as our Cheeky Cherry friend, Joseph coined it. 

To guide us with the theme of “For a Future to be Possible,” Brother Promise or Thay Phap The, gave a practical dharma talk on four elements that can help us live a joyful and happy life, now and in the future;

1) Self-Care
2) Eating a plant-based diet (veganism)
3) Purpose
4) Community

I resonate with number 3 and 4 quite a bit because of the nature and offerings of our wellness school “saigon om” that Sarah and I started 5 years ago. After having been an engineer and then high school math and science teacher as my career in my former life, I now transfer my “problem solving” and “teaching” skills into our holistic approach of well-being when we travel and teach.

On the topic of purpose, Brother Promise asked “Do you want to be #1 or do the #1 thing you love?” I’ve spent a good number of years on this auspicious spiritual journey to figure out just that - my purpose and volition. I’ve travelled as far as China, Thailand, Laos, Bali and Vietnam to cultivate, learn and strengthen what has helped and transformed me the most; and that is yoga and mindfulness.

A decade later, I’m ecstatic to say that saigon om is manifested with the intention of bringing wellness practices to all beings. With combined skills of Reiki, fitness, yoga, Qi Gong, massage and mindfulness, Sarah and I are able to offer and share this transformative path with friends around the world. My favourite Thich Nhat Hanh (aka Thay) quote says it all “There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.”

Yes, we often remind each other that we are blessed to do the #1 thing we love and now sharing it with communities in Kingston, Melbourne and Saigon.  I have much gratitude for Sarah, my second body, to offer our practice to our beloved communities as we “travel, teach and learn.” (our motto).

As for #1, self-care this is very important; be it Qi Gong, yoga, fitness, or meditation, I think caring for one’s body and mind is crucial so that we can be there for others. When self-care is there then eating a plant-based diet (#2 veganism) is a natural process with the practice of looking deeply in terms of the cause and effect we as humans have on other beings and species.

The week at Blue Cliff was very nourishing for my spirit and inner child to sit, breathe and play with young like-minded friends. I love you, my Cheeky Cherries. Until we meet again next year, smile and breathe.

Bowing in Gratitude,
Hang

6-Week Wellness Challenge

mindfulness-fitness-wellness-well-being-active

Dear community, dear friends,

I must admit that I started challenge out of a bit of frustration. Three times this past week on Facebook, I've been seeing "a fitness challenge" with a selfie of some half-cladded 'skinny' woman. That image watered my seed of anger. But I digress with 3 deep breaths to calm down my anger. 

If you've been my personal training client before, you know I believe that looking "skinny" isn't necessary fit and vice versa, being fit does not necessarily equate to looking skinny, as the media and magazines often portray. Rather, it's about feel good about your whole self in body, mind and spirit. More holistically, feel at peace with who you are and the world around you. Looking good is only a small part of a holistic approach to wellness. A "fit" looking body may just give you temporary happiness, until you gain all that weight back. Then what? We may have seen or know of people who go on this so called "yo-yo" diet and have not shown consistent happiness, have they?  

A healthy lifestyle is a way of life, for the rest of your life, not just a 6-week challenge. So now you understand that I only use "6-Week"  in my subject heading to grab your attention and hope that it's a good gentle encouragement to kick start you on a healthy, joyful and peaceful lifestyle and naturally make it your way of life as you cultivate more awareness of what's going inside and outside of you.

Some awareness practices Sarah and I follow are:
1) Eating plant-based such as fresh vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds.
2) Meditating regularly to bring awareness to body, mind, emotions and surroundings.
3) Surrounding ourselves with Mother Nature and positive beings.
4) Taking good care of our daily sufferings.
5) Cultivating joy and peace in our daily activities
6) Practicing daily gratitude.
7) Enjoying life. 

So, let us begin with this initial kick start. I've explained each point in greater details below. It's very simple. So simple that I've attached a one-page PDF for you to print and put on your fridge to remind you and check off your daily so-called challenges. If you stick to the challenge you'll start to see something magical changing in you. It's called positive perception to life as your brain re-wires to a more positive outlook on yourself and life. This re-wiring of the brain is called "neuroplasticity," which will create a lasting effect.

Two important things I'd like to advise you is that you commit to this challenge and be kind to yourself, especially when you catch yourself not being mindful or forgetting an activity. Remember the number of months, years, or decades you spent creating these negative habits and thoughts, which means some activities might take more diligence/effort than others so you can care and change how you perceive yourself and the world. 

Looking "fit" does not necessarily equate to long-term happiness. Wellness is a holistic approach, from food, thoughts, emotions to surroundings and regular exercise. It is not just about physical fitness. 

The list of challenges is by no means exhausted. Please feel free to do extra, if it's too enjoyable or add more of the positive things you are already doing. 

 EVERYDAY

1) 10-15 minutes. Sit and meditate on breath. Check in with how you are feeling and set the day's intention based on your observations of body, mind, emotions, and spirit.

2) Eat one plant-based meal, which includes vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds. Be mindful of your caloric intake in the store-bought salad dressings. A simple recipe Sarah makes is 2/3 vinegar, 1/3 olive oil, and a few drops of tamari (Japanese soya sauce) and a few chopped up garlic cloves.

 3) Walk outside at least 10 minutes, preferably in nature. If it's too enjoyable, challenge yourself with 10,000 steps everyday, or add in brisk walking to a light jog to strengthen that heart. Sarah's currently inspiring me with her daily 10,000-step goal. Walk/jog in such a way that it feels joyful and pleasant. Did you know that heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada? Let us combat and reduce this number.

4) Have gratitude for 3 things everyday, and feel free to share it out loud to your loved ones.

5) Do your chore or daily activity with your full attention and without distractions, eg. brush your teeth, eat, put on clothes, walk to car, talk to a loved one without a device in your hand etc. 

6) Practice watering someone's flowers ie. be kind, offer words of encouragement, be inspiring!  

7) Bring awareness of your ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) and counter them with something more positive. For example. "Gee, this shirt makes me look fat." to "I need a new shirt that will make me feel awesome."

EVERY WEEK

1) Do 1.5 to 3 hours of moderate to high intensity exercise of your choice.. For example, canoeing, running, group fitness, yoga, Qi Gong, Kungfu, dancing, cycling, etc. My challenge to you is to get your Heart Rate up to about 80% of your max up to 2 hours every week. Max HR = 220-Age. Remember that a common cause of death is cardiovascular diseases every year. This can be prevented.

2) Have at least one meal/evening with your family with no devices and practice having positive/good conversations. Water each other's flowers.

3) Practice deep listening without judging, educating or giving advice to anyone. Do this at least twice a week. Smile at a the speaker with your full attention.

4) ONE whole day of not complaining about a thing. Look for the good in yourself, your family and the people you encounter.

5) Read a few pages of a wholesome good book. 

Have fun with this challenge and feel free to report your joys and challenges on the Facebook Event Page. 

Click here for the Checklist in PDF

Email me if you have questions. 

Keep fit, Eat well,  and Look for the Good,
Hang
saigonom@gmail.com

 

5 Simple Ways I Incorporate Mindfulness Into My Daily Life

Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment. This awareness helps us recognise what is happening inside of us (body, mind, emotions) and around us in every moment. 

When I first discovered mindfulness, I only practiced it on my yoga mat or meditation cushion. I would feel very peaceful while I meditated or practiced yoga, then as soon as I stepped out into the world I would feel anger and anxiety at the traffic and busy streets. I didn't know that there was another way to be in the world.

Sometime later during a day of mindfulness in Melbourne, I practiced mindful tea drinking for the first time. As a group we sat peacefully and enjoyed our tea in silence. As I sipped my tea, I had a big 'aha' moment. Tears streamed down my face as I realised that mindfulness is not just for the yoga mat or cushion, it is a way of life. My perception to my way of life forever changed that day. I experienced a breakthrough and they were tears of relief, relief that there is another way to live, a more peaceful and joyful way than I had been living all my adult life. 

Over the last 4 years, as I've nourished my mindfulness energy, my practice has brought more peace and joy into all areas of my life. I know how to take better care of my anger and anxiety, my family relationships have improved, I find peace in my daily activities, and I have a deeper appreciation of nature and the people I love. I also now enjoy sharing this peaceful way of life with others. 

In my mindfulness practice, I enjoy having a daily organic formal practice, which changes day to day and includes sitting meditation, mindful walking, yoga, Qi Gong and Tai Chi. I also enjoy practicing mindfulness informally by bringing it into my everyday activities. I find that my formal and informal practices nourish and support each other.

I'd like to share five simple ways I've been incorporating mindfulness into my daily life over the years.

1. Waking Up
The first thing I do when I wake up is breathe and smile. I feel grateful to wake up with a new day ahead. I often recite a gatha (poem/verse) from my mindfulness teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh:

Waking up this morning, I smile.
Twenty-four brand-new hours are before me.
I vow to live fully each moment
and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.

Reciting this gatha while I breathe and smile helps me let go of any anxiety I may feel about the day ahead. It brings me peace and calmness and I carry this peace with me as I sit up, place my feet on the floor, and take my first steps of the day.

2. Showering
As I step into the shower I practice smiling. My smile nourishes my gratitude for having fresh clean running water. My smile also helps me be present so I can enjoy the feeling of the warm or cool water on my skin. I step out of the shower feeling flower-fresh in body and mind.

3. Driving
My mindfulness teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, asked us “Why rush? Our final destination will only be the graveyard.” This reminds me to go slowly in life and especially when I drive. I try to always stay at the speed limit and give myself lots of space between my car and the car in front of me. When I stop at the red light, I smile at my old habit energy of irritation and use the red light as my ‘bell of mindfulness’ to bring my mind home to my body with my breath. Speed humps used to annoy me but I recently added a new driving practice to enjoy them! I slow down the car to peacefully drive over them while at the same time slowing down my mind with deep and calm breaths.

Mindfulness in everyday life

3. Preparing and Eating Meals
I really enjoy preparing my meals at home with fresh, organic and wholesome ingredients. In the past I would rush through cooking and be irritated at how long it takes. Now with mindfulness, I enjoy each task. Smiling also helps. Sometimes I catch myself with my grumpy face, and then I smile with gratitude to have delicious fresh produce. I smile at the vegetables and reflect on the journey they have taken and the elements (rain, sun, earth, clouds), farmers etc.) that have nurtured them. Then when I sit down to eat, I take away any distractions (TV, phone, books, newspapers) and eat just to eat. Between each mouthful I place my fork down and focus only on the food in my mouth, chewing slowly and enjoying the waves of tastes and textures. Eating without any distractions makes the food become real and I appreciate and enjoy my meals immensely. I've noticed that I eat less now too. 

5. Queuing Up
While I am waiting in a queue at the supermarket or the post office, I try to practice “non-waiting”. I become aware of my habit of reaching for my phone to distract myself and leave my phone in my bag. Instead of checking my phone, I stand peacefully and enjoy my breath, being aware of what’s happening inside me and around me. Then when it’s my turn to be served, I am ready to offer my smile, peace and freshness to the cashier.

I'd love to hear about your informal mindfulness practices. How do you bring mindfulness into your everyday life?

A lotus to you, Buddhas to be,
Sarah

4 Easy Ways To Bring Happiness Into Your Day Every Morning

flower

Would you like to receive a bouquet of flowers every morning upon waking up? I do. Although I don’t necessarily buy or grow flowers myself but how I start my day often gives me the same feeling as receiving a bouquet of fresh flowers.  

1) I smile and breathe in bed when I wake up. I smile to practice gratitude for my aliveness. I breathe deeply to remind myself that I’m truly alive. I usually place one hand on my belly and the other on my heart and take 3 deep joyous breaths as I lie in bed. Sometimes I enjoy my breath a few more times longer when my beating heart says hello, the sun radiates on my face, the pitter patter of the raindrops melodically sing on my window, or the birds chant from high above. This sense of aliveness and gratitude helps cultivate peace and joy throughout my day.

2) Hang time. I make an effort to wake up before everyone so I can have some Hang time. It is time to practice Noble Silence where I don’t plan or think of my to-do list for the day. I simply carry on the mindful breathing from my bed to the washroom to setting up my coffee-making ritual. The fragrance from the coffee brings so much joy to me. I then sit down and enjoy a big tall glass of water before I take my first delicious sip of coffee that I have carefully crafted.  

After coffee is usually the reading of our favourite Zen teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh’s book. I’m currently reading “How to Love” and his latest release, “The Art of Living.” There is so much insight and wisdom in his writing. Sometimes one sentence has such profound effect on me that I have to put the book down so I can contemplate how to put it to practice in my daily life. I love that about Thay’s writing. He makes it practical and real for me.

3) Mindful movement. After my coffee and reading spiritual text I like to take care of my body and mind with some sort of physical practice. Every day is different and organic in my practice. After checking in with myself I then plan out the practice for my morning. I vary my practices from fitness workouts to yoga to Qi Gong to pranayama (breathing exercises) and most recently long morning walks on the ocean shore in Indented Head, Australia. It all depends where I am and what I feel like in the morning.

4) Plan out my day. After a delicious and nourishing morning, I then consciously plan out my day, which usually starts with turning on the internet to take care of my inbox, check social media, and simply be ready to receive and connect with other people in my daily interactions. If my capacity is low for whatever reason I tend to spend more alone time and be mindful of my speech to others. The important thing to me is that I listen to myself and know what’s going on inside and around me without making too much of a fuss.

My Qi Gong teacher in China once told me “How you start your Qi Gong practice is how the rest of your practice is going to be.”  For example, if I start Qi Gong with focus, grounding and calming intentions, then I continue to cultivate that concentration, strong grounding and peaceful energy throughout the practice. I took his wisdom a step further and applied it to my morning upon waking up. If I start it in a nourishing, joyful and peaceful way than it becomes a reflection of how my day is going to be.  

As a teacher, I often find myself talking and sharing in front of groups of people. I love starting out my morning in a way that nourishes my soul, heart, body and mind. I'm then able to offer my freshness to the people I encounter throughout the day. Our mindfulness teacher often refers to it as “watering the other person’s flowers.”

How do you start out your day? How can you bring peace and calmness into your morning and day? And, how can you offer this to your community as well?

Peacefully dwelling in my soy latte,
Hang

7 Simple (sort of) Ways to Kick Start 2018

nurture garden of loving kindness.jpg

2018 is going to be an auspicious year.  But then again, every year that we're still alive is an auspicious year.   Did you know that about 92% of the people who make New Year's resolutions fail every year? I think they don't achieve their so-called New Year’s resolutions because they seem daunting or too far-fetched after a day or two, like a drastic diet change or fitness regime.  

Start with small achievable simple things that you can do every day to create good habits and thus, voila, cultivates well-being. Start small and it will have a rippling effect on the rest of good habits.

Here are small and simple habits I still practice every day.

1. Smile and Breathe
Upon waking up early each morning, remain in bed, smile and feel your breath coming in and out for about 5 breaths. Naturally, do more if it’s too enjoyable. Then get up. Do not “BBQ” in bed – it’s a Vietnamese expression that means when you wake up, you get up. Avoid rolling, tossing or turning like a veggie kabob on the grill.

2. Stay Hydrated
After waking up, the first thing I consume is a tall glass of water to hydrate myself from the night’s sleep. Your body loses water (and carbon dioxide) through your exhales each night.  If you’re on the go, carry a water bottle with you and drink the equivalent of another 4 to 5 more tall glasses of water throughout the day. Sometimes we confuse thirst with hunger and end up eating instead of drinking. 

3. Exercise
A simple and inexpensive form of exercise is walking outside.  10 minutes is a good start to get the blood or Qi (energy) circulating. If it is too enjoyable do more or continue later on in the day. When walking, enjoy Mother Nature’s views and sounds, say hello or smile to the people that cross your path.  Coordinate your steps with your deep breaths. Feel a sense of ease and joy in your steps. Avoid listening to music or getting lost in thoughts. Walk to just walk. Or, jog to just jog.

After your walk, take 5-10 minutes to stretch out your muscles and mind. I prefer to practice yoga or Qi Gong where breath is coordinated with movement to help keep my mind from wandering. This also helps me stay focused on what I’m doing.

4. Smile
I named this pose “smilasana” in yoga. Smile at everything that you do, like driving, cutting up the vegetables, taking out the garbage, strolling in the supermarket, standing in queue, walking from A to B, and in activities or chores that you don’t care for. One day you’ll find joy in it. Smiling helps me find ease and peace in myself and in what I’m doing.

The way I see it is I always have a choice; to suffer while doing the work or to find joy in doing the work. Why suffer when you have a choice, right?

Use every moment to smile and enjoy your breath. This simple practice reminds me that I’m still alive and often helps me to realize that whatever it is that I’m struggling with is smaller than I perceive it to be.

How wonderful it is to smile to my aliveness every day. If not, it likely means that I’m dead or walking around like a zombie.  

Fun facts about smiling. It only takes 17 muscles to smile but 43 muscles to frown. Smiling produces “feel good” chemicals. Our teacher says, “Smile to offer yourself and others your freshness.”  To me smiling is like offering myself a fresh bouquet of flowers without having to spend money on flowers.

5. Stay Positive
Water your garden and stay positive. When I complain, swear, or have negative thoughts, I water the weeds in my garden and I’m the first receiver of this suffering, and then the people around me are the second and third receivers of my negativity. Nobody likes to be around a complainer or a negative person. It is exhausting. We also lower our self-worth and lose the ability to heal.

Take a moment to come back to your breath before reacting. Your breath is real. Sister Dang Nghiem at Plum Village says, “The strong emotions experienced are just states of mind. Come back to your breath.”  Physically remove yourself from the negative situation if you need to.  Look for the good or accept the situation without negativity. This requires conscious practice and deep looking to help you understand your behaviour and perception.  Buddha says, “Where there’s perception, there’s deception.”  Understand yourself and understand the other person.

Remember that 90% of our suffering is self-inflicted.  Be open and curious. Our experience often deceives us into believing what’s right or wrong.  This is dangerous.

6. Rest
Take time each day to rest your body from the doing and the mind from the overdrive thinking. It can be as simple as sitting or lying down for 5 to 10 minutes and just be. Just be with your breath, so the mind can come home to its body. You can do this anytime of the day. This is why I love savasana, the resting pose, at the end of every yoga practice. On a side note, have you tried yoga?

7. Quality Time
Spend quality time with your beloved ones. When you’re with your loved ones, really be there with them. This means avoid getting distracted with your laptop, TV and other devices. I like to put my phone on silent or out of sight. I’ve also turned off all the pop-up notifications from social media. I allocate some time every day to take care of important messages and emails. 

Sarah and I have made a pack that whenever one of us is on our device and the other person starts talking, we stop using our device and give our full attention to the person who is talking to us. We both feel strongly that  the presence of another person is more important than laptops or smart phones. If it's an urgent email that we need to give our full attention to, we ask the other person to give us silence for x minutes. 

Our teacher likes to remind us when we fight, disagree or suffer, “Where will we all be 300 years from now?” Treasure your moments with family and friends.

May your 2018 be nourished with loving kindness, peace and joy. 

Smiling at 2018,
Hang

5 Choices That Have Changed My Life

What do I want for breakfast? Where do I want to go for coffee? Should I get anxious at this long queue, or just stand here, smile and enjoy my breathing? Should I honk and yell at the careless driver, or just smile and let her through?

These are some examples of choices we get to experience every day. At first you may think they seem irrelevant and insignificant choices. Please bear with me and for just one moment, have a beginner’s mind and hear me out.

These small choices are the ones that will shape and change your life. It’s not the big ones like marriage, buying a house or moving to another country.

Habits are manifested from choosing a “bad” or a “good” choice. These habits become your behavior, which then in turn make up your personality.

Personality colours your perception, relationships, beliefs, and how you feel. In the end you always have a choice. 1) A choice to suffer or 2) A choice to not suffer. Hopefully, you opt for the choice that makes you suffer less. And, more importantly, make a choice! If you can’t decide, you also suffer.

Here are some choices I’ve taken in my life that have changed my life.

1) Accept. I know life isn’t fair. I have chosen to accept it for what it is and stop the blaming. I go with the flow of life. When I accept and see things as they really are, I cultivate understanding and love within me. I suffer less when I have understanding of myself and others.   

2) Feel Blessed. I sometimes call it the attitude of gratitude. Being able to wake up every morning is a miracle. Every morning when I wake up, I immediately smile and feel my breath coming in and out of my body for about 3-5 breaths. This makes me feel blessed for being alive, and readies me for a brand new day ahead.  

After I step on the yoga mat or meditate, I always take a few moments to smile and express my gratitude to all the teachers before me, within me and after me for showing me this auspicious path. I then also carry this gratitude everywhere I go; the delicious coffee or tea in my hands, the meal before me, the community I live in, and the people sitting across from me, especially my loved ones.  

3) Speak Good Words. Good words increase good vibration and water my good seeds of happiness, peace, and calm. I'm always the first receiver of my thoughts and speech. So why not speak lovingly? On the contrary, if I gossip, use profanity or negative words such as “gross, disgusting, hate, stupid, blame” etc. I water my seeds of afflictions (klesha) and the people in ear shot of me get them too. Please sit down and consciously write down words you would like to remove from your vocabulary and come up with new loving words you can use every day.

4) Walk the Talk. Honesty and integrity are two character traits that mindfulness has taught me, as a teacher, student, friend, daughter and partner. I know that when I lie, I’m really being untruthful to myself, my soul, my consciousness and my whole being.  I also lower my own vibration and I don’t heal.

5) Share My Wisdom, Not Suffering. Every morning I sit and check in my capacity for the day. For example, I check in with my body, mind, and how I’m feeling each day.

If I’m suffering, I meditate longer and breathe deeply to take care of my pain. I know that it’s a state of mind and I need to come back to my mindful breathing. I also spend more time alone to breathe and be with my suffering. I heighten my awareness of my speech and I speak less. I do everything I can with all the mindfulness practices I know to NOT let suffering defeat me or over spill this suffering onto others. Life is just too short to dwell in my suffering. Here’s an experiment, look up at the blue sky and try to frown. Not possible right? Life really IS amazing and worth living for. We are alive everyday for a reason.

If my capacity is high I spread my peace, love and joy to people I encounter throughout the day. Even if it's just a smile or a nod of kindness. I have vowed to make my good energy and good intentions as my signature wherever I go.

Transformation does not have to involve big choices in life. It is the day to day positive choices that have changed my life tremendously.

I also invite you to start by making a decision first, to suffer or to not suffer. If the choice you’ve chosen does not serve you, at least then you have another choice to make. But if you sit around and don’t decide, you suffer. Please decide to live life to its fullest.

Choosing to smile,
Hang

4 Ways to Handle Harsh Words and Gossips

Dear Friends, Dear Sangha,

Sarah and I often get asked how we deal with harsh words or gossips.  Yes, words are very powerful. Once they’re said, it is often hard to take them back. It’s like breaking a dish, then saying “sorry” to the dish and hoping it’ll fix itself to the way it was. We know that is not possible.

Before I share how to handle harsh words or bad gossips as a receiver, let me start with us as the speaker of good and loving words. We call this “loving speech” in mindfulness. Most of us have uttered words that we regret and vow to not say again. But yet when we find ourselves in similar situations we speak unkindly again and again, especially to our loved ones. Why? The answer is “habit energy.” The Zen circle often refers to this strong habit energy as a wild horse, pulling us in many directions and yet we are sitting on the horse and have no control over it. The wild horse is like our wild mind.

The good news is we can stop our so called “bad” habits.  We need to create some space in our mind to “act” instead of “react.”  The space that helps us to act appropriately can be cultivated with “mindful breathing,” which is the essence of the mindfulness practice. For example, when we’re angry, we don’t speak. Rather we breathe deeply in and out to calm down the anger.  This will take some practice. At first you might catch yourself after you say harsh words. Eventually with the practice of mindfulness (see my article on 4 Meditative Techniques) the space will get bigger for you to take care of your strong emotions before you act.

It’s hard to practice “What people say about you is none of your business” because words are powerful, as mentioned earlier. Here are some tips that have helped me over the years.

1) Understand that people that speak harsh words and gossip or have anger issues are suffering too. They don’t have mindfulness to help them take care of their suffering so they spill it over onto us. Once you understand this, you have a lot of compassion for them and you do everything you can to help them suffer less.  Your smile or peaceful energy can be enough to help them.

2) Don’t speak. If you understand their suffering you tend to not say much. I find it really helps to remove myself from the situation. If it's a loved one I say “I feel a lot of anger now, could we please speak about it later?”  I then enjoy a walk outside with the birds and the sky by myself. Later when I’m much calmer I share how I feel with the person.

3) You have a choice to suffer or not to suffer.  This choice is always yours in any situation.  Have deep awareness that only you can stop this internal turmoil. It starts by not blaming the other person. Blaming creates more suffering on both sides. 

Sarah and I always ask ourselves this question when we’re in a pickle. “What would Buddha do?”  Asking ourselves this question is like a reminder of “What would a good person do in this situation?”  With the energy of understanding and compassion, we suffer less.  

4) Continue to practice the dharma. This has helped increase my capacity to deal with the world’s chaos and harshness. More importantly, my capacity has helped me live my life in harmony with myself and the world. When we practice mindfulness, we can offer our community peace, love and understanding to lessen its chaos and harshness. Our teacher always says, "peace begins in oneself."

May your breath be deep and peaceful,
Hang  

4 Meditative Techniques

Mindfulness has helped me in many capacities.  I might even be bold and say it has transformed me into a better person, partner, friend, sister, daughter, and teacher. It has changed my relationships, my view on life, and my volition.  Most importantly, mindfulness has helped me learn how to take care of my day-to-day suffering and learn to live with more harmony, peace and joy within me and around me.

Here are four techniques I practice on a daily practice to help me nourish harmony, peace and joy.

1. Mindful Breathing

Our teacher, Zen Buddhist, Thich Nhat Hanh poetically says, “Our breath is our anchor.” It took me sometime to practice and fully experience the fruit of its deep meaning.  With the practice of conscious breathing, the mind & body unite, and thoughts, body, and feelings start to calm down like a pebble settling at the bottom of a pond. Only when all is calm, then I begin to experience insight and understanding of my sufferings and joys.

Sometimes, I just sit and focus on my in-breaths and my out-breaths for 10 minutes. To spice up my meditation practice I sometimes incorporate my 13 Pranayama exercises, which takes about 45 minutes to complete. It all depends how I feel in the mornings.

With this conscious breath I’ve taken my practice deeper and remind myself to breathe deeply while doing other activities like brushing my teeth, driving my motorbike/car, or drinking my coffee in silence in the morning.

2. Walking Meditation

“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

We walk the moment we get up. From the bedroom to the toilet, from the toilet to the kitchen, from the parking lot into the office etc. We can turn this into a meditation by coordinating our steps with our breath. Every step we take can bring us a sense of peace and joy.

When I step, I don’t exert extra effort. In fact, our teachers at Plum Village often remind me to make it enjoyable because all the conditions of happiness are right here in every step.  

 “People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

3. Smiling Meditation

Sarah, my three nieces and myself attended a Wake Up retreat in early 2017 in Cambridge, Ontario. Sister Dang Nghiem was leading the retreat. She said something in her second book, “Mindfulness as Medicine” that deeply resonates with me; “Smiling is the practice of non-fear.” 

Not only does smiling make me and the people around help me feel good, like seeing my favourite flower in full bloom, it’s also a practice of getting to know my own afflictions and learning how to take care of them.

On a biological level, when we smile the brain releases endorphins (natural pain killer) and serotonin (anti-depressant).

Next time when you feel a strong emotion arising, like anger, anxiety or stress, smile at it with this: “Breathing in, I feel anger. Breathing out, I smile to my anger.” And really smile at your anger to help find the cause of this anger. I usually add in a mindful walk in the park or out in nature to calm my mind and bring me back to my true self.  We need to take care of our body and mind with the practice of loving-kindness.

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

4. Mindful Movement

We all know that exercise is really good for the body.  As a fitness professional for many years, I think exercise coordinated with the breath is even better! For example, running, swimming, Qi Gong, yoga, etc, where each movement or 2-3 movements are synchronized with a breath. I mix up my practice between weight training to cardio fitness classes, Qi Gong and yoga.  My go-to and favourite practices are Qi Gong and yoga, even if it’s just for 10 minutes on a busy day.

My goal every morning and every day is to nourish my body and mind with something healthy and delicious. I am often with people throughout the day. I find much joy in offering my good energy to the world when I leave the house.

I leave you with our teacher’s suggestion:

"Take time each day to be with your breath and your steps, to bring your mind back to your body—to remember that you have a body! Take some time each day to listen with compassion to your inner child, to listen to the things inside that are clamoring to be heard. Then you will know how to listen to others." ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

May your day be filled with peace, love and joy,
Hang