Do better than just ‘keep your sanity’.

Remember when the words social distancing weren’t a part of your day-to-day vocabulary?

It’s hard to think that was just a couple months ago. But today, everything has changed.

Editorial note: This isn’t a doom and gloom post. There are plenty of legacy media outlets for that. If the words “everything has changed” sounded ominous, I do apologize.

But it’s undeniable we’re living in unprecedented times. And while staying at home can be significantly detrimental to many families’ financial and mental health, I feel it’s important to remain optimistic.

To me, practicing optimism comes down to presence. Can I be present enough to accept the things I cannot change, like the fact that I lost an ideal teaching position and can no longer teach students in person? And can I be courageous enough to change the things I can, like taking more time to write, teach online, and learn to code? (see: Serenity Prayer)

To that end, here are 4 weird things I’ve started doing to become more present, alive, and grateful during this strange time. If you try them for yourself (or have other weird things you’d like to share), please drop them in the Comments below!

1. Take a vacation… around your house.

This has been inspired by a recent email I received from one of my favorite newsletters for wanderlust-y travels, Afar. As Aislyn Greene writes:

[…]the idea is to journey around your room—as in your own bedroom or living room—with the same level of curiosity and awareness you bring to traveling in a new city or country.

Inspired by this idea, my puppy and I embarked on 45 day 45 minute excursion into the vast grasslands of our backyard, cataloging the lush vegetation and (absurdly prevalent) incidence of fire ant colonies.

Later in the day, I went cave diving in the silky darkness of my girlfriend’s bedroom closet (yes, we live together, and no, we do not share a closet). I let the stillness wash over me and was reminded of Pratyahara, the yogic practice of sense withdrawal.

If you’ve been struggling to get your meditation practice, I highly recommend cave diving in a closet or dark room of your own. You just might find the novelty and isolation ideal for meditating.

2. Meditate on your death.

Trigger warning: This one can stir up some pretty powerful emotions.

The best way to feel gratitude is take stock of all the amazing things you have in your life. And what better way to do that than imagining you’re dead, gone, and forever removed from everything you love?

While you’re locked down, you probably have more time than usual. And that’s exactly what this exercise requires. Set aside some time to prepare yourself beforehand, and be sure to give yourself plenty of time to return afterward. Extra points for post-meditation journaling.

If you went cave diving earlier, you might want to return to that special, peaceful place.

3. Express yourself!

If a death meditation doesn’t sound fun (and really, it doesn’t), this one will be more your speed.

Find your inner child while stuck at home. Pretend you’re playing hooky. Or, think of it like a snow day. Or… school-is-suspeneded-because-of-a-pandemic day. The only thing that matters is that you play and create something.

My favorite: Morning Pages. In her immensely popular book, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron describes Morning Pages as “spiritual windshield wipers”, because they have a magical ability to clear your mind and help you connect with your vision.

How it works: As soon as you wake up, put a pen to paper and write 2 pages of streaming thoughts. High-step your inner critic as she chases after you, calling you a bad writer, naughty thinker, and all-around miserable person.

Notice that you don’t have to think too much.

This is a practice of letting go and finding flow. When your thoughts seem to magically appear on your page with little judgement, you’ll know you’re doing well.

Other good creative outlets include:

4. Have dinner abroad.

Inspired by this idea, my girlfriend and I decided to stream a walking tour of Krabi beach while cooking Thai curry with vegetables and slicing pineapple boats. We followed things up with a tour of Elephant Nature Park, then went down an Instagram hole of adorable puppy videos.

Sure, we might not be able to go out to eat. But with a little creativity, you can create an intimate experience in your very own home.

How are you finding time to chill out?

What about you? Share your favorite ways to relax, create, and stay positive during this… unusual time. Drop a Comment below!

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