We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, We’re Not Scared!

For those who read this book to their children. This is inspired by it.

This is an invitation to an adventure in awareness, a systemic approach to the experience of living that only makes living more real.

Oh No! There’s fog on the road! We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we can’t go around it, we’ll just have to go through it! Hoo-Haa, Hoo-Haa…
Let’s take a breath.

At any moment, we can be home, and home is much closer than we think. If we can just realize the fullness of THIS moment, the reality of THIS breath, we can be at home right now, in our body just as it is.

Oh No! There’s tall grass! We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we can’t go around it, we’ll just have to go through it!  Flish-Flash, Flish-Flash…
Let’s take two breaths.

There is a way of being, a way of living, a way of paying attention that is like starting anew, coming out of a womb,  tasting snow for the first time.
To explore it as a pure idea would be an exercise in thinking. An exercise without life.

Oh No! There’s a river! We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we can’t go around it, we’ll just have to swim through it! Swish-Swash, Swish-Swash…
Let’s take three breaths.

See for yourself how things change when you take a few deep breaths and pay attention to how you feel  your body. A few breaths and your ears can hear music out of lightbulbs. A few breaths and your camera has a new filter which beautifies the most ordinary object.

Oh No! There’s a swamp! We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we can’t go around it, we’ll just have to waddle through it! Schlop-schlap, Schlop-schlap…
Let’s take four breaths.

Though these acute senses brought you superpower, we are more than our body.
We are more than  our emotions.
We are more than our thoughts.

Like leaves floating down a stream, with stillness, we can watch our thoughts passing by, one by one. That’s what’s peculiar about thoughts, they all do that, passing by.

I hear grumbling, I see nothing, I feel the fear…. It’s COVID-19!!!!

Now is the only time you have to live.

Each moment  is truly the first moment of the rest of your life. Your life is already doing the doing itself.
You don’t have to do the living. Just live, and observe.

Let’s go home!  Schlop-schlap, Schlop-schlap, SwimshSwash, Swish-Swash, Flish-Flash, Flish-Flash, Hoo-Haa, Hoo-Haa

No one can tell you what your path is. There is no ONE way. There are manifestations of ways. Our journey will  find its own way “home”.

Sometimes it takes time to know a way. These are moments of not knowing. Just as silence are as important as sound in a good piece of music, these NOT-knowing moments are part of that song, that “home”.

Back home!  Aaaahhhh

Meditation in COVID-19 time

In this time of change, uncertainty, and anxiety, pause to take care of yourself.

Perhaps you’ve had your first session of meditation. Did it seem easier than expected? or more challenging?
Just treat it like a new skill that needs practice.  Our mind is made to jump from ideas to ideas, lingering in the past or planning in the future. Over a period of time practicing meditation, the mind will settle down for a longer period of time.

Patience and kindness towards self is to take care of what’s most precious in us: our mind. In Eastern cultures, there is only one word for the mind and the body, all together as one. As we try to keep exercising during this shut-down stay-at-home period, so shall we try to keep our mind healthy. QiGong, Tai Chi, Yoga are practices that unites the mind to the body motion. Meditation is when we don’t move, as the mind intensely focus on … the mind’s object of interest, mainly the breath

So just for this session, it’s about increasing our familiarity with the practice.

So we’re going to begin taking a moment to get comfortable. Eyes open, nice soft focus, or if comfortable, you can close your eyes and have someone else read this next section at a slow pace to you. You can even record this on your phone, slowly speaking the words, and then play it for yourself later.

It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in a chair or on a floor. Just sit in a comfortable position and take a few nice big breaths.

Breathing in and breathing out.

Taking a moment to notice how we are sitting or standing, how the back feels, the top of the head, the weight of the body either at the buttocks, thighs or feet and the contact with object or the ground.

Shifting the attention to the symmetry or non-similar feel of the body.

As you breathe in through the nose, focus on the lungs as they expand filling in with air.

As you breath out notice how the body softens

With the next outbreath, just see what else changes. Noticing without judgement.

Sometimes we’re caught in thoughts. That’s normal, just bring your mind gently back to the next breath. No guilt, no scolding, no expectation of perfection as there is no perfect breath. Each day, at the moment you are checking in with yourself, your breath will be different. So how is it today, at this moment?

Breathe and feel the breath through the body, from the start of the In-breath to the pause, to the transformation of the In to the Out-breath, and the next pause.

In the next breath notice how slow or fast the breath is, In or Out.

In the next breath notice how fresh or warm the breath is, In or Out.

In the next breath notice how far the In breath goes.

Directing your attention now to whether the breath itself has changed just naturally from us paying attention to it.

Even before COVID-19, life consumed us.

Of course life has big events, troubles that happen to us or those we love; life is made of small but also big changes that can shake us or the world around us to the core. This pandemic is one of these events.

But even before COVID-19,  the small stuff that happens sometimes make us sweat. Perhaps there was an uncomfortable conversation that took place, perhaps we didn’t get what we expected or planned, or perhaps we cannot find something. Whatever it is, we fretted over it.

If you ask yourself whether you would be still sweating or thinking about this in a few months or even in a few years, what would be the answer? If the answer is no, then why is it that we are so often overwhelmed by a single thought or emotion? If the answer is yes, as this pandemic is a huge changing time, just recognize that it is a big turn in the road of life. The road ahead lies unknown, unpredictable. The illusion of control, gone.

Right at the moment that these bothersome thoughts are triggered, It’s almost as if we can’t let go of them. They seem to be so real, so true, and it seems like this would last forever. We get caught up in our own story, our own perspective of that story.

Take five breaths now. There were lots of ideas.

Recognize what they triggered.

Beginning anew and bring the attention to the next breath.

It’s in the resilience of Mindfulness practice that one can learn to push a pause button in that story of ours. Sometimes it takes a few days before we realize “Wow, I have been consumed by this for a few days now! Is there another perspective I can try to look at?”

We have perhaps all experienced being blindsided by the passion we felt towards something, not listening to our inner wisdom.

Another breath. Our constant companion.

To suspend judgement and to keep a constant companion to ourselves. To be a witness to our emotions, is what the practice can nurture.

Emotions are usually felt in our body. Thus sometimes, even before we realize our emotions, our body already exhibited symptoms of that emotion.

Mindfulness practice basically proposes a tool to help us recognize the symptoms of the mind as it inevitably show up in the body. By now, we all have learned how to recognize  symptoms for COVID-19. So let’s learn to recognize our own mind habits. Let’s practice how to find and shift perspectives to lessen suffering, not only to ourselves, but to the others as well.

How the Ordinary becomes the Extraordinary

As I teach more seniors and people in Rehabilitation facilities this year, I noticed how their rare smiles bring me more joy than smiles had brought me in the past, in the classrooms. Is it because it happens less frequently? People who have more physical ailments, pain and challenges in their daily lives smile less often, and so when they do, it means much more to the person at the receiving end.  An ordinary smile becomes extra-ordinary because one does not expect it. When someone who usually sits in the wheelchair with his head down  without much reaction asks for a microphone in order to “sing,” it is a big step. Watching a person come to live is one of the best joys. This is very much like watching a baby learn how to clap, or toddler, how to walk.

How can we bring the unexpected into our daily routine? When we pause for half a minute now and then in our ordinary life, a crack in the asphalt or some leaves on the ground, the way the light shapes the shadow of an object may appear differently to us.  Re-framing one’s visual cues and emulating the point of view of a photographer, or a painter. may elevate an ordinary moment to an extraordinary one. The difficult part lies in the pause itself. Sometimes one needs to schedule these, randomly throughout the day.

Quality Time

Most parents who work outside of their homes try to catch up on Quality Time with their offspring(s) now and then. What that means differ from family to family. In our family, it ranges from biking, walking, looking at a screen together, talking, eating, playing games, making music together, driving together, and yes, we even sit quietly (meditating) together. At times one of my teenage sons would Face Time or zoom from a room in our house during our short silent time together because he is tired or just wanted his own space as we “meditate” together. We can hear his clothes moving, our bulldog’s breathing, the tickling of the clock, and alarm sound on their phones when a new Instagram post comes in.

There are so many ways to spend quality time together, and the definition changes as kids grow. What works at certain age, certain season, what works for all, or for just that one kid. It takes Mindful reflections to navigate what we consider Quality time and what they consider Quality time.


Living in North America, I never really experienced hunger. In my privileged life, hungry moments are are, but right now, my stomach is grumbling, my saliva,  more abundant than usual, thoughts shifted from the task at hand (creating a blog for the first time) to an urge to bite into something, my tongue wants to taste anything salty, and a faint imaginary scent of bread or chips occupies my brain so much that I had to blog about this RIGHT NOW!

Using my prefrontal cortex’s power, I try to think of that last meal, about 7 hours ago, and thought of what I ate, wondering if I am REALLY hungry or is the feeling of being HUNGRY just a thought that passes by. Certainly my body can sustain itself without another meal in a few days, I have enough fat to burn! There is no pain, no “symptoms” physically speaking, so is this thought a result of conditioning? habit? or am I not aware enough of the physical symptoms?

In any case, this would be the worst time to go into a grocery store, or drive by a drive-by fast food joint. Food is too easily available, unhealthy food in particular is too cheap, too prominent.

Breathing in, I notice that I think I’m hungry. Breathing out, I wonder whether I will still be this hunger in an hour when I am allowed to go home and eat.

Reacting from our expectations

As a teacher, it is unusual to have to monitor our own expectations for our students – while we are teaching the class. But this is the most important lesson I have learned from my Mindfulness Based Stress Reaction (MBSR) mentor. Thoughts may come and go, they range from “I hope they get it” to “Did I say it the right way for these students?”

In a classroom setting, there are course objectives and all teachers are trying to engage students to “get it,” whether it’s the joy to learn, about one’s self or about the world around us, or the “Ah Ha” moment when the light bulb turns on… As teachers we inherently aim for a goal: open a window in students’ minds.

But in MBSR, one needs to be monitoring our own emotions and expectations. To be aware of our own insecurity or expectations as we may feel disappointed, or too excited, or involved in the students’ stories. What ever happens, an MBSR teacher is practicing to recognize that AS it arises. Good or bad, it is the practice of Mindfulness to just notice, and not judge one’s self for it.