My Personal Struggles of COVID-19 (and how I combat it)

Everyone in this entire globe has been affected by the pandemic of COVID-19.  Life as we know it, has been turned upside down.  Whether or not you have been infected by the virus (or personally know someone that has been infected), the past three months have created many challenges in everyone’s lives.  Here are my top three struggles that has come out during this time:

  1. I got Zoomed Out!

    girl, computer, work, fatigue, office, woman, stand-alone, girl ...Struggle: Most people I meet in a social setting think that I’m an extrovert.  Not that I’m being deceptive, but when I have to “work a room,” I make a conscious decision to be positive, get to know people and make people feel seen and heard.  As much as I love to make people feel special, it really drains my energy.  The reason why this is important for you to know about me is because my struggles during quarantine did not include going batty over not seeing people in person.  I actually loved the time of “stay-at-home order” because I felt like it gave me permission to stay at home; but with staying home, I couldn’t get out of all the Zoom call requests!
    Solution: I started to limit my Zoom call acceptances to 2 calls per day, and they could not be back-to-back.  As an extrovert by nurture and introvert by nature, I quickly realized that I needed at least 30 minutes in between calls to energetically recover and regenerate.  This simple decision helped me maintain my energetic boundaries as well as increase my ability to mentally show up for each Zoom calls.

  2. I lost half of my income!
    Empty wallet | ✅ Marco Verch is a Professional Photographer ...Struggle: As a yoga teacher, fitness instructor and pilates instructor, the studios and gyms I taught weekly classes and monthly workshops at had to temporarily close their doors. Most health and wellness instructors and teachers are independent contractors for studios and/or part-time employees at fitness facilities, so we don’t get paid time-off.
    Solution: I chose to count my blessings and focus on the things I can be grateful for.  My husband makes enough for me to not work (some of the money I make goes toward my wellness business-related expenses).  I’m not an essential worker that is required to put myself in danger everyday (A deep, sincere thank-you to all the essential workers!). I don’t have as many expenses when I stay at home.  I can teach some classes virtually.  I was able to successfully transition all of my private clients to meeting virtually.  My monthly workshop has also been transitioned to virtual workshops.  There are people who have lost jobs and their entire income.  I pray for them everyday. 
  3. My daily routine has been thrown all over the place!
    Struggle: I’ve heard from many people (without young kids or having to work) that it’s getting easier to stay up late and harder to get up early.  For people with kids, they’ve had to add being a homeschool teacher/daycare worker/nanny to their already-existing responsibilities.  For me, I’ve been busier than ever with teaching my classes online, moving half way across the country, writing my second book, getting ready for an upcoming advanced yoga teacher training in a couple of weeks, and getting furniture for our new house.  These days, I don’t have a consistent routine other than waking up, reading my Bible, praying, meditating and practicing yoga.  Other than that, my day-to-day activities varies.

Solution: I decided to enjoy this time of slight disorder and semi-chaotic life.  This sets the perfect environment for me to truly practice stillness and being present. I also started taking walks around the lake and enjoying short yoga asana practices during sunsets.  When I’m outside (especially near lakes and beaches), it immediately calms me down and helps me to become fully present.

I’ve been making a daily decision to be okay with my new normal.  Even through my struggles of feeling like my life is on hold, I must be present and live each and every moment… because even in this new reality, our lives continue on.

What are some of your own struggles during this pandemic?  I would love to hear from you!

With Gratitude,
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Lessons from The Lotus Flower

Pink and White Lotus Flower · Free Stock PhotoI moved back to Texas (from North Carolina) 12 days ago.  I lived in North Carolina for 4.5 years, but before that, I was a resident of the Lone Star State for almost 10 years.  Even though I grew up in California (Los Angeles), I somehow feel that I’m more of a Texan than a Californian.  I was so excited to make the move back to where my heart is, but the move was not without challenges.  In my blog last week, I talked about the Dos and Don’ts of moving in the midst of COVID-19 (it’s so important to plan ahead because there are moving-related services that may not necessarily readily available due to business closures).  Today, I want to address the emotional aspect of moving, using the symbolism of a lotus flower.

“Be like a lotus. Let the beauty of your heart speak. Be grateful to the mud, water, air and the light.”
Amit Ray

A lotus is a very unique plant: While most plants in the northern hemisphere became extinct during the Ice Age, lotus plants survived, earning the distinction as a living fossil.  It also grows in muddy waters into a beautiful flower: This fact alone can be pondered over for many hours — and I promise to dedicate an entire blog in the near future — but today, I will talk about the following characteristics of a Lotus: Purity, Enlightenment, Self-regeneration and Rebirth.

Purity

The dictionary defines purity as “freedom from contamination.”  When I think of the word contamination, I think of something being dirty, dangerous to one’s well-being, and no longer being good for its purpose.  It seems kind of odd to think about the connection between purity and moving; but the way I connect it is by asking myself, “Am I dragging my personal baggage from state to state, or am I starting anew with a blank slate, with no pre-conceived notion of what this new chapter in my life will be like?”  Being that I’m a dreamer, I like to envision the way I think certain situations will be like.  It’s hard not to go into a new experience and environment with no expectation; however, if I want to approach this with purity, I must go into my life in Texas free from contamination of bad habits that I have previously created in my life.

Enlightenment

We use this term (or some form of it) a lot in Yoga.  Some words that are in this category are understanding, insight, awareness and awakening.  I’ve been missing my friends in Charlotte a lot the past couple of days.  I found myself wondering if we made a mistake by leaving Charlotte.  When I expressed this to my friend in Dallas, she seemed concerned for me.  But I assured her that I was glad I was feeling sad and having doubts because if I didn’t feel this way, how can I say that I gave my heart fully to my life in Charlotte?  It would also indicate that I was totally out of touch with my feelings if I didn’t feel this way.  I think part of being enlightened in one’s journey in life is to be able to have self-awareness and to be able to recognize the discomforts without avoiding or ignoring them.

Self-Regeneration

When I think self-regeneration, I think of lizards.  I remember when I was at a summer camp as a teenager, one of my friends caught a lizard and was trying to hold onto it.  When it squirmed out of his hand, he grabbed the tail (you know what’s coming next), and the tail detached from the lizard… and it was moving by itself!  This was the first time I had ever seen a lizard do that in person, so it freaked me out!  We know that lizards have the ability to regenerate their tails.  I found myself asking the question, “Are there any areas in my life where my heart has been hurt or injured?  If so, am I actively taking the necessary steps to heal and regenerate those parts of my heart?

Rebirth

Rebirth.  To be born again.  This makes me think about being like a newborn, where everything is new and fascinating.  Even though I have previously lived in Dallas for almost 10 years, I want to embrace this city with a new set of eyes and new perspective.  I don’t want to go back to who I was when I lived here before; I want to allow myself to approach this new chapter of life with freshness and excitement.

Moving is tough.  It is never without discomforts and bitter-sweetness.  If you are (or will be) in the situation of moving, know that I can relate to the myriad of emotions that you are (or will be) going though… and that transition feelings are completely normal and necessary.

With Gratitude,
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Get Out of The Way!

Since the onset of COVID-19 Pandemic and all the restrictions that have come with it, I was among the thousands of people who have lost their income due to business closures.  I was also among the numerous yoga teachers/fitness instructors that transitioned to teaching live-stream classes through Zoom.  Even though teaching through an online platform was something I had wanted to do for a while, I was “forced” into this situation sooner than I was anticipating.  I say “forced” because my other option was to not teach at all.  There are several reasons why I was delaying online teaching:

    1. I don’t like hearing my recorded voice (I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like this).  When I hear my unrecorded-self talk, I like the tonality and the intonation in my speaking voice… which is not the case when I hear my recorded voice.
    2. I don’t like seeing myself talking in a video.  I start looking at how I move my mouth when I speak, my non-conscious movements, my lack of smile (making me look like I’m mad), my non-white teeth (from many years of tea and coffee drinking)… the list goes on and on.
    3. I wondered if people would actually switch from in-person classes with me to on-line/live-streaming classes.  Being that I specialize in teaching gentler forms of yoga (not necessarily easier, but I focus more on proper alignment and injury prevention), my morning classes consist of mostly women in their late 30’s to 50’s.  Half of these wonderful women are not big fans of technology, so I knew I would lose the number of people I can help by transitioning my classes online.
    4. I questioned my discipline.  Would I be able to consistently teach online every week, or would I start to lose motivation and quit?

It is interesting that it took a global crisis for me to take the leap into teaching classes online.  But before I decided to offer live-stream classes, I had to search in my heart and make sure I wasn’t doing it out of fear (check out my previous blog on overcoming fear).  Once I prayed, meditated and talked it over with my husband (who is often the voice of reason), I realized that this would be a great time for me to take a leap and see what God does with it.

Today is my second week of online teaching, and it’s going great so far.  Last week, I taught three All-Levels Yoga classes, two Yoga Nidra classes (if you don’t know what this is, sign up for my class here), and a Biblical Meditation Workshop (click here for future workshops)… and I’m happy to report that I did not feel self-conscious, and I was able to stay disciplined and organized with my schedule!  The greatest lesson I learned in this whole process is that I get in my own way (and in God’s way) which prevents me from doing and experiencing greater things.

How often do you convince yourself not to pursue a dream or an idea because you think it is:

  1. Too much work?
  2. Too much effort?
  3. Too scary?
  4. Too intimidating?
  5. Too out of your comfort zone?

Next time you feel any of the feelings above, remind yourself to get out of your way so that you can go after accomplishing and experiencing things that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.  And if you don’t succeed in your definition of success (more on this topic next week), know that IT IS OKAY.  You are still wonderful.  You are still loved.  You are still uniquely YOU!

Self-Love vs. Selfish-Love

I love February.  I love how he is different from the rest of his family, and he flaunts his uniqueness by being the shortest month in the year.  And every four years, he decides to be one day longer (I’m using “he” because months are masculine in Spanish and French).  I think I identify with February because I’m also the oddball in my family in so many ways which I will go into in next week’s blog.

Whether February is also your favorite month or not, I’m sure you are influenced by him in one way, shape or form.  You can’t go into a retail store without seeing Valentine’s Day and anything relating to love being advertised and sold.  There are plenty of reminders to love your family, friends, significant other… but how often do you remind yourself to love yourself?

I’m not sure when the whole “Self-Love Movement” started, but it seems like every other posts I see (especially in February) are about self-love.  Loving yourself is absolutely necessary to live a happy life, but the reason for self-love — in my opinion — can sometimes get misinterpreted.  There is a difference in self-love and selfish-love.  Self-love is accepting who you are at the core and knowing your worth, and doing the necessary work to be the best version of yourself that you can be; and through this process, you’re able to love others greater than you’ve ever loved before.  Selfish-love — which is the complete opposite of self-love — is indulging in pleasure to fulfill your current (and temporary) desires with the end goal being all self-serving.

I’m not saying taking a day to get pampered or having “Me Time” is the bad thing; we all need a break to retreat and rejuvenate.  What I’m talking about is when taking care of yourself becomes a self-absorbed ritual where that becomes the end-goal instead of it being a tool to improve your mind/body/spirit for others.

I have experienced both self-love and selfish-love.  Last summer, I took a week-long sabbatical to work on writing my book.  I checked in to an AirBnB for that week and slept in every morning (being that I was in a city one hour behind, I was waking up in between 6am and 7am without an alarm), meditated, prayed, read my Bible, went out for meals by myself and spent majority of each day at a desk, writing my book.  It felt great to take a pause from my day-to-day duties to have some solitude, but I did not take the sabbatical to indulge in my desire to be lazy and be entertained.  As much as I wanted to binge-watch shows on Netflix, I took time to carry on my goal of finishing my book so that I can share my experiences and practicals of biblical meditation with the rest of the world.  This was a time of self-love for me because I took time to rest, enjoy slowing down, but it was with the intent of becoming a better version of myself for others and for me to accomplish my goal.

On the other hand, I remember when I was overwhelmed with stress from work and indulged in selfish-love (this was when I had a fast-paced, high-stress position in a Fortune 100 Company): I would come home, make dinner and spend a few hours with my family, and then I would lock myself in my home music studio for many hours to compose, record and edit songs.  I thought this “Me Time” would allow my stress level to go down and feel better, but my stress level and outlook did not change; if anything, it contributed to me becoming more self-absorbed.  Because I used creating music as an escape from reality, it neither improved my well-being nor get me closer to my authenticity.  I do, however, believe that this  was a necessary step in my journey to becoming more self-aware.

I say all this to encourage you to take time out for yourself in a way to use Self-Love as a tool and not as a goal toward your authenticity.

 

With Gratitude,
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Misunderstood? Me too!

As a kid in the 80’s, one of my favorite T.V. shows was reruns of Threes Company.  Being that I was a preteen and my English was my second language, a lot of the “adult humor” went over my head.  What I found so hilarious about the show was the physical comedy of Jack Tripper (played by John Ritter) as well as all the misunderstandings that caused 99% of the comedic drama among the main characters.  Of course by the end of the epidsodes, all misunderstandings were cleared up, everyone hugged it out and all was good in the world again.  In a perfect world, all misunderstandings would be cleared up in 30 minutes (minus commercial breaks), this unfortunately, this is not the case.

Last year, I wrote and published a book called, Be Still: The Power of Biblical Meditation.  It’s full of true stories from my own life as well as other people’s lives on how biblical meditation played a huge role in helping us heal from daily stressors, people-pleasing, childhood trauma, divorce, domestic violence, and death of loved ones.  The book also contains many techniques to help create stillness through scriptural yoga, pranayama (breath control techniques), and scriptural meditation.  I even recorded all of the techniques and provided links to each of them.  It took me six months to write/edit/design/publish my book (which you can read about in my previous blog, Indie-Author Do’s and Don’ts), and I was so excited to share it with the world!

The first month, I taught scriptural yoga and biblical meditation classes at a big women’s retreat in Asheville, NC where approximately 900 women from the southeast states attended.  I received many words of encouragement, gratitude and confirmation that I was doing exactly what God wanted me to do.  The second and third months were the same, where I was humbled at how powerfully God was using the book He commanded me to write.  But then January came, and I saw a one-star rating review on my book (you can read them on Lulu.com and Amazon.com).  I felt discouraged at first, not because I doubted the purpose of this book (which all glory was to God) but because I felt misunderstood.  There was a part of me that wanted to somehow contact the reviewer and say, “Wait a minute, let me explain and address all your concerns.  Let me explain to you all of my training and research on this subject.”  But then I took a step back to re-evaluate my heart.  I fully respect the reviewer’s opinions and therefore, I am completely okay with being misunderstood.

Everyone is allowed to have their own opinions whether they believe they are right and others are wrong.  It’s completely okay.  It’s okay that one person is a republican while their friend is a democrat.  It is okay.  It’s even okay that I use Yoga to get closer to God while a friend of mine believes that it is not of God.  IT IS OKAY.  It’s not my job to try to convince someone that what helps me will help them.  They have every right to their own opinions.  We waste so much time and energy on getting worked up about disagreements and misunderstandings.  There was a time when I would lose sleep over such things.  But at the end of the day, none of that matters.  Unless someone is asking me questions with the intention of wanting clarity, it is not my job to debate or provide proof of why I think “I am right and they’re not.”

There’s something freeing about living this way.  There’s such a feeling of lightness within the spirit when you’re not living to prove yourself to others but rather living to move closer to your authenticity.  So this week, I encourage you to practice being okay of feeling misunderstood.  Let other’s have their opinions about you because this does not change who you are.  Continue to shine bright for those who wish to be in your light.

 

With Gratitude,
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Drowning Out Distractions

I’ve traveled a lot this year. Since January, I’ve been to over 30 cities in six states (not including the stopover/layover cities), covering approximately 15,000 travel miles totaling 82 days.  Next year, I imagine I’ll be traveling just as much if not more. I love road trips with my family, flying across the country to visit family and friends, and I even love traveling for work.  Granted, I schedule my own out of town/state work trips which is such a blessing.  I also take work-related vacations in the form of sabbaticals.  This summer, I spent a week at an AirBnB in Denton, TX.  Other than my husband, no one else knew where I was because I wanted to take that time to rest and focus on my writing my book.  I needed to get away from my day-to-day living (aka distractions) in order to accomplish my goals.

Distractions are inevitable.

For a couple of months during the fall, a gardener would come by with his leaf blower to clear out all the leaves… right in front of the glass windows of the studio that I teach yoga classes at.  It never failed that he would come while we were in the middle of a class.  At first, I thought to myself, “Why can’t he come by AFTER my class ends?  Why does he always have to cause so much ruckus when we’re trying to practice yoga?”  And then I stopped and laughed at the irony of my thoughts.  Being that one of my goals as a Yoga Teacher is to help my students take the lessons they learn on the mat (in my classes), off the mat (into their lives), I told my students, “Do you see that man with the leaf blower?  Do you notice the distraction?  I invite you to acknowledge that this is happening at this present moment… and now, let it go.  Let go of the distractions and become present.”

It’s amazing how the brain is able to drown out distractions that we choose not to pay attention to.  Both my husband and daughter have the ability to study and work in the middle of a busy Starbucks and other places where there’s lots of noise.  I, on the other hand, prefer silence (or at least my earplugs) in order to focus; but there have been many occasions where I’ve engaged in deep conversations in the middle of a public space with many potential distractions.

According to an article in the Journal of Neuroscience (cited in Scientific American), the brain will intentionally weaken its response to things that seem less important so that it can become more sensitive in reaction to what you choose as the focus.  This is great news!  Since we now know this fact, all we have to prioritize and figure out what is truly important to us.  Once we establish our priorities and make conscious efforts to make those things important, the brain will do what the brain does by drowning out the distractions.

Just as I do in my yoga classes, I invite you to take a moment to drown out the distractions by sitting still, focus on your breaths by becoming aware of the rise and fall of your belly as you inhale and exhale.  Continue to observe the breath as you close your eyes for several breaths.  Once you open your eyes, continue to sit still and make note of how you feel.  Notice the beauty of living in this moment.

Namaste.

 

With Gratitude,
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Lessons From a Lemon Tree

 

About three years ago, my husband and I spent the day in Balboa Island in Newport Beach, CA.  A lot of the homes there have big windows facing the walking path and the harbor, so it’s fun to just take a stroll and glance into people’s homes.  I know it sounds creepy, but it’s almost impossible to walk around there without looking into people’s homes.  In fact, I’ve had some homeowners wave to me from their house if we happen to make eye contact! 😂

One of the things that I noticed in their patios was potted lemon trees.  I thought to myself, “That would be so cool to be able to grow my own potted lemon tree!”  But being that I don’t have a green thumb (I once killed a bonsai tree), I was hesitant in starting one; but I did it anyway!  I took seeds from a lemon that I bought at the local grocery store and planted three of them in one pot with some soil for citrus trees.  I faithfully watered it according to instructions that I found online.

I was so excited when it started sprouting up and growing slowly but surely.  I didn’t expect any fruit for at least a year or two (especially because I was growing them indoors with constant exposure to sunlight during the day), but I didn’t care. I was just so happy that I could actually grow something that started as seeds from a fruit that I bought at the store.  I didn’t take pictures of the growth, but it looked something like this:

I had big dreams for these lemon trees.  I got excited thinking about how I was going to have freshly picked lemons for my water and tea every morning.  I pictured myself making lemon pancakes, lemon pepper fish, lemonade… I was mentally collecting recipes.  As they grew bigger, I separated them into their own pots (so three trees!).  I was so proud of my lemon trees; I’m surprised that I didn’t assign names for them!  They were thriving and growing beautiful, big leaves that smelled like lemons… until they all started to get sick.

When I first noticed that the leaves were turning yellow, then brown and falling off, I went online and did everything that I found to do in order to revive my sickly trees; but in the end, they met their destiny:

They’ve been dead for a month now, and I finally decided to accept defeat.  I planted all three of them together after they died so that they could all be together.  It’s kind of comical and tragic at the same time in my opinion.  And while I’ve been looking at this dead pot of lemon trees, I’ve been reminded of three life lessons.

Lesson #1:  Find joy in the simple things.
When the seeds started sprouting up, I couldn’t believe how happy I was!  I looked forward to seeing their growth every morning.  Even when there was a million things going on, watching my little lemon trees-in-the-making made me stop and marvel at this miracle of growth.  When I stop to look at a rainbow, listen to the birds chirping in the morning, feeling the warmth of the sun or watching old couples holding hands, it brings me back to the present moment which allows my heart to smile and appreciate the simpler things in life.

Lesson #2:  Be consistent in watering and pruning.
I did my research to water only as often as I needed (not every day).  When there were diseased branches, I pruned them to make sure they were not going to make the rest of the plants sick.  I need to make sure I’m getting “watered” by constantly learning and developing my strengths as well as getting “pruned” by cutting out bad habits, thoughts and actions that do not serve me for my highest good.

Lesson #3:  Check the soil!
I think my plants died because I did a poor job checking the ph of the soil.  There are soil testing kits out there, but I decided that the only thing my plants would need are plant foods.  In life, I must assess my soil to make sure I have what I need in order to thrive.  I’m not talking about selfish ambition; what I mean is that I need to make sure that I surround myself with people who I feel safe with and cared for.  Community is so important because we are all connected.  If my “soil” is not the right ph for me to thrive, the negative impact will ultimately spread throughout the entire universe.

In 2020, I will be planting seeds for new lemon trees.  Maybe this time around, I will actually be able to make those lemon pancakes!

 

With Gratitude,
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