Unlocking the happiness within

Lessons from watching a Youtuber battle cancer, leading a mindful life, draining Zoom calls, updates on COVID-19, and free meditations

Hi friend,

Last week, I shared a video of a South Korean woman, Eun Chan, who filmed a goodbye video to her Youtube fans before passing away from cancer. She was diagnosed in April 2019 and her battle ended on May 6 this month. Even through the pain and struggles with the disease, she mustered the energy and courage to leave her Youtube fans smiling. Even in the face of death, she was upbeat, smiling, and compassionate for others.

If she can still smile and get through the day, knowing what’s coming, we can surely be happy, even with what we are going through right now. It’s all a matter of perspective.

First, what we affirm becomes what we accept.

As soon as we utter the words “I can’t…”, this becomes our state of mind and being. When we tell ourselves “I can’t stay in isolation any longer”, the indoors become intolerable. When we tell ourselves “I can’t be alone”, time alone becomes a pain. And when we tell ourselves “I need X to be happy”, we keep happiness away on our own accord.

Instead, we must affirm what we are truly seeking. By telling ourselves, “I am happy/healthy/content”, as sappy as it is, we shift our action and attention towards this new narrative. In a documentary by Derren Brown, those who believed that they were lucky were more aware of their surroundings which led to “lucky” encounters. Those who believed otherwise were ignorant to good fortune, even when money put right in front of them.

Second, our own happiness can only be cultivated by ourselves.

We often look for feelings of happiness, contentment, and love from our romantic partners, families, and friends. When what we choose to feel (feelings are choices as much as they are responses) don’t match with what we expect to feel, we are sad, disappointed, and rejected. Instead of reflecting on ourselves, we blame our dejection on the folks closest to us. And instead of moving on, we try looking for it in other folks to only be disappointed again.

Not only does our definition of happiness change throughout our lifetime, but the actual feeling itself is also intangible and impossible to describe. How do we expect others to truly understand how to make us happy?

Third, what we practice today is who we become tomorrow.

We are so impatient with ourselves, especially in happiness. After reading a book, watching a movie, or attending a seminar, we hope to be radically transformed overnight.

Feelings are like plants. To nurture the ones we want, we have to first plant the seeds in the actions we take today and wait for them to take root. We must also take care of the weeds of other emotions like anger, jealousy, and greed to make room for what we want more of. And just because we don’t see any growth doesn’t mean change isn’t happening. It just takes a bit of time and energy to develop the garden we have always wanted.

Life is hard during this unprecedented time, but what we do today will be the story we will talk about for years to come. In changing our perspective, we have the opportunity to enjoy the happiness that has always been inside of us waiting to be unlocked.

For many folks like Eun Chan, being able to face adversity is an opportunity in itself to practice happiness and making the most with the short time that we have.

Mindfulness in work, love, and the future

In another amazing podcast with Tim Ferriss, he sits down with Jim Dethmer, one of the leading voices in conscious leadership, offers advice on mindfulness, love, and the future.

One of my favorite exercises Jim shares is a series of questions to ask ourselves to address hard feelings as they arise.

  • What is the feeling? (Feelings vs. thoughts)

  • Where is it in the body?

  • What is physiologically happening in the body?

  • Can I let it feel for a minute?

  • What is it here to teach me?

For more Jim, he writes about breaking out of cognition and feelings in his blog.

Why Zoom is draining

Being on a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat, says Petriglieri. Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy. “Our minds are together when our bodies feel we're not. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You cannot relax into the conversation naturally,” he says.

This article by the BBC resonated a lot with me as I struggled to pinpoint why I have been so tired lately. From Monday through Friday, I am on my webcam for sometimes up to ten hours a day performing and speaking to my camera.

One tip that has worked is to learn to disable the camera after designated times or put more focus on the presentation rather than looking at everyone else.

More on COVID-19

Derek Thompson with The Atlantic wrote a wonderful piece on why we need more than social distancing before we can open up our indoor spaces. We should take into consideration the aerosolization of micro-droplets (when folks are speaking, singing, etc.), recycled air (further spreading these droplets), and improving our mask-wearing culture.

NY Times put together a moving piece remembering the 100,000 folks who have died from COVID-19.

Free mindfulness

If you have an AMEX, you are eligible for a free one-year subscription to Calm (meditation app), regardless if you are a new or returning subscriber.

As always, thanks for reading!

P.S. If you enjoyed this, share or sign up here: mindfulmoments.substack.com

Anything else? You can always hit "reply" to email me directly. 💌

Have a beautiful day!

Metta (loving-kindness),

Yellow Glitter Podcast | IG | YT | FB | TW | StevenWakabayashi.com

Adapting to a new normal

On practicing gratitude, affirmations, and celebrating life

Hi friend,

To be honest, getting through this pandemic is difficult. Really, really difficult. We have observed an entire spectrum of folks who have been responding to home quarantines with ease, but also many folks with a lot of difficulties. The crisis text line has seen an uptick of 30% in text conversations last month. Not only has COVID-19 ravaged our nation, mental health will never be the same.

As part of getting through these hard times, we can use various coping strategies to help mitigate and even offset many of the mental chatter that puts our sanity at risk. In a combination of mindfulness and meditation, I’ve picked up a few tips that have helped me tremendously.

The first is practicing gratitude. While it might seem obvious, reflecting on things that are going well amidst chaos allows us to focus on uplifting thoughts that we can further cultivate throughout the day. Not only are we, what we think, but we only accept what we tell ourselves. In thinking sombre thoughts, we will only accept sombre news and events into our lives.

Each day, I write a few things I am grateful for, including health and employment during this time. Some days, I remind myself of the very little things, like having food for the day or even a mind to think and write this email. When we put things into perspective, there are folks around the world who don’t have the privilege or access to the things we take for granted. In practicing gratitude, we become more mindful and aware of the things we have and pay less attention to the infinite things we don’t have or even need.

The second thing is practicing positive self-affirmations. By associating ourselves with the behaviors we want more of - we come to align ourselves with the thoughts and actions we seek. For example, by declaring ourselves to be strong or kind - we become strong and kind. On the flip side, if we say we are depressed and lonely, we only accept the things that prove these sentiments.

With this pandemic, I remind myself that I am resilient, adaptable, and strong every day to put myself in the proper headspace to get through another day of quarantine. While it is okay to be vulnerable (it’s ok to not be strong every day), we must also be vulnerable to courage. We’ll never know what the future holds, but all we can do is to prepare ourselves the best we can, setting up the best headspace as possible.

The third tip is to have faith. Not necessarily being spiritual or religious, but having trust in this process. Nobody knows for certain what will happen, but rest assured, there are folks working tirelessly to come up with vaccines and ways of living that will eradicate or diminish this virus. Unless we’re planning on being a part of this solution directly, worrying or stressing more about the situation doesn’t help create a vaccine any faster. We just need to do the best we can, with the things that are in our control.

Sending you so much love and compassion during this period.

Fuck cancer, not life

Recently saw this video on NextShark about a Korean YouTuber who recorded her final days of cancer - up to the very last day she died. For many of us put in this situation, recording a YouTube video would be the last thing on our minds. But for this woman, it was a moment to shine and smile amidst a war inside her body. A beautiful example that the happiness we seek has been always inside of us all along. (Highly recommend watching this video with subtitle translations on YouTube)

The future of Trump

Again and again, the story that emerged is of a president who ignored increasingly urgent intelligence warnings from January, dismisses anyone who claims to know more than him and trusts no one outside a tiny coterie, led by his daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner – the property developer who Trump has empowered to sideline the best-funded disaster response bureaucracy in the world. People often observed during Trump's first three years that he had yet to be tested in a true crisis. Covid-19 is way bigger than that. 'Trump's handling of the pandemic at home and abroad has exposed more painfully than anything since he took office the meaning of America First,' says William Burns, who was the most senior US diplomat, and is now head of the Carnegie Endowment. 'America is first in the world in deaths, first in the world in infections and we stand out as an emblem of global incompetence. The damage to America's influence and reputation will be very hard to undo.’

Inside Trump’s coronavirus meltdown by Edward Luce for the Financial Times

Celebrating the class of 2020

This pandemic has completely uprooted our lives, especially for those missing out on their important graduation ceremonies. Obama and many other celebrities got together to wish these 3+ million graduating high school seniors a digital sendoff.

And if you enjoyed that, check out a UC Berkeley student’s Minecraft graduation and a father’s attempt at recreating a university graduation stage.

As always, thanks for reading!

P.S. If you enjoyed this, share or sign up here: mindfulmoments.substack.com

Anything else? You can always hit "reply" to email me directly. 💌

Have a beautiful day!

Metta (loving-kindness),

Yellow Glitter Podcast | IG | YT | FB | TW | StevenWakabayashi.com

The issue with reopening our states

Coronavirus on the rise, state of America, stuck at a festival, drive-ins, and letting go

Hi friend,

It seems like another week has gone by without an end in sight to this pandemic. Even though cases have dwindled in some locations, other cities around the world are seeing outbreaks happening again after reopening. In China, the city of Shulan has been shut down and new cases have reappeared in Wuhan after easing their lockdown rules

On social media, I see many of my friends breaking social distancing, hanging out in parks, and hosting get-togethers. While I understand that cabin fever is real, it is still imperative that we isolate ourselves away from others until a vaccine or mitigation strategy comes into place. Some states are reporting fatality rates of almost 15%.

In early March, I posted on my social media that we will all know folks who have succumbed to the virus. It was a mixed bag of responses, with a handful of folks reiterating that “the flu is much worse” and “only 0.1% of the population will get it”. One friend, in particular, was convinced that this was all a Russian disinformation campaign (they still believe it and I had to stop following them for my sanity). While these comments have not aged well, imagine the position we would all be in if we followed this advice. Because of a lack of leadership and guidance from our US government, it is up to us individually to keep ourselves safe and updated.

Truth is, I know far too many friends who have had their immediate family members pass from COVID-19. And in their memory, I vow to do all that I can to keep myself and other folks around me safe.

This is not something that we can bend the rules to get slapped on the hand. Put it bluntly - there is no return from death. And while there are extreme economic, mental, and physical hardships on the rise, catching and spreading this virus is the worst outcome of them all (NY Governor Cuomo summarized it pretty well).

Is there an end in sight? Not just yet. But we don’t have to rule out the horizon just because we don’t see it. Humans has survived even worse pandemics before. In the meantime, all we can do is to take this day-by-day.

Another day finished, is another day closer to the end of this pandemic.

Stay safe and well.

How other states are doing

COVID Exit Strategy tracks all of the 50 states and their progress towards readiness to reopen.

I also found this really interesting Google sheets link analyzing novel coronavirus cases against race per state, brought to you by The COVID Racial Data Tracker.

And if you enjoyed that, check out the current state of America in six charts.

The last festival on Earth

For folks who attended The Tribal Gathering Festival in Panama back in March, some are still at the festival due to lockdown. (To be fair, these folks should not have traveled after this novel coronavirus was classified as a worldwide pandemic on March 11.) An interesting look at what it would be like to be stuck at a festival indefinitely.

Adapting to change

From drive-ins theaters to concerts, drive-in entertainment has made a comeback thanks to the insulation and distancing it provides. This, I can get behind.

Let it go

“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.”

Learning to let go by Anne-Laure Le Cunff

As always, thanks for reading!

P.S. If you enjoyed this, share or sign up here: mindfulmoments.substack.com

Anything else? You can always hit "reply" to email me directly. 💌

Have a beautiful day!

Metta (loving-kindness),

Yellow Glitter Podcast | IG | YT | FB | TW | StevenWakabayashi.com

Lessons from losing my job

Advice in trying times, 68 pieces of advice, the importance of social distancing, and confusion

(Memories of France last summer… )

Hi friend,

Times are tough, and it's going to get much harder as economic conditions worsen in the coming months. Folks are losing jobs and reducing discretionary spending, leading to business impact and more jobs lost. Quite the not-so-positive feedback loop. Industries that rely on foot traffic have been devastated overnight, and many of my friends in the service industry and performing arts have been jobless for weeks. As of last week, 26 million Americans have become unemployed in the past five weeks.

Job security and I have had a rocky relationship. I've been let go from multiple jobs throughout my lifetime, all of which were due to circumstances outside of my control. While each one was difficult mentally and financially, these moments forced me to reevaluate my life and make changes that ultimately led me to where I am today.

Especially during these tumultuous times, here are a few insights I've learned along the way to cope and bounce back from job loss:

1. Getting fired or let go is not the end of the world.

The first job I was let go from was also my very first full-time opportunity. At the time, I was fresh out of college, working as a web developer in San Diego. After a year of freelancing around various companies, I landed at an advertising agency where I came to love the folks I worked with. Freelance turned to a full-time position but ended up getting chopped in a round of layoffs due to the agency's poor business and financial decisions.

At the time, I was distraught. I had poured night and weekends into my work, and getting let go was the last thing I was expecting. A part of me was equally disappointed and embarrassed that this had happened to my first salaried position. My identity was deeply rooted in this company. Being let go felt as if I was getting kicked out of my own house.

Except, it couldn't be further from the truth.

One of my colleagues had shared with me something that shifted my perspective: "we can still be friends without this company, you know." This feeling of abandonment was fueled by an illusion that I would lose everything, including the deep friendships I had formed during my time at the agency.

In reality, everything you create will be with you forever - in the relationships you keep, memories you share, and the knowledge you retain. In departing from a company, you do not become lesser or lose yourself. It's impossible to lose what you could not give away, to begin with.

2. Frugality and budgeting will help you survive.

Consumer spending runs a capitalist system. From the shows you watch on Netflix to the social media posts on Instagram, most advertisements are trying to get you to buy non-essential products. In tightening up finances, it will further extend the runway to survive and reach the next opportunity.

After my father passed away as a kid, my mom raised my sister and me as a single mother working as a hairdresser all her life. She always made sure that we had a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. I never saw her spend any money on herself, and she was extremely frugal, making every single dollar count. When I threw away anything that could have been still useful, including office supplies and clothes, she would often reuse them herself without complaints. Looking back, I am floored by how she did all of that without ever complaining to my sister or me.

Since I started working, my mother inspired me to be smart with my money. I became interested in personal finance early on with help from Reddit (r/personalfinance). Budgeting and being frugal was key in bridging unemployment and covering living expenses for the coming months. 

In buttoning up your finances, ask yourself:

  • How am I tracking my spending? (I love Mint and YNAB)

  • What are some reoccurring charges I can stop or consolidate? (Do you use the services you pay for?)

  • What are the fees I can reverse or avoid? (Always call your banks for forgiveness on the charges) 

  • Is this spending a need or want? (Be truthful!)

  • How does this spending take away from my future goals? (It's a balance)

In being honest and vigilant with our finances, you can create a system to weather even the toughest of times. And perhaps, this system will fast-track abundance into your future.

3. Losing a job is an opportunity to believe in yourself.

In every opportunity that I've lost, I gained a newfound sense of belief in myself. Through the struggles, I've somehow made it through each time. After a few job transitions, I decided to do something big. I dropped everything, packed two bags for New York City, and slept on couches for months until I was able to find a job in the city. I applied for jobs every single day and interviewed relentlessly. It was one of the most challenging yet rewarding things I had done deliberately. In hindsight, I would not have done it without having been fired and let go of my past jobs.

In the loss, a door opens for something new. In being released, you are free to do anything that you have ever imagined before. You are more talented and powerful than you realize. Life is too short of having lived without having faith and taking risks for yourself.

68 pieces of advice

Kevin Kelly, the co-founder of WIRED, shares 68 pieces of life advice for his 68th birthday this past week.

Some of my favorites:

  • Learn how to learn from those you disagree with, or even offend you. See if you can find the truth in what they believe.

  • Always demand a deadline. A deadline weeds out the extraneous and the ordinary. It prevents you from trying to make it perfect, so you have to make it different. Different is better.

  • You are what you do. Not what you say, not what you believe, not how you vote, but what you spend your time on.

  • Eliminating clutter makes room for your true treasures.

  • The universe is conspiring behind your back to make you a success. This will be much easier to do if you embrace this pronoia.

We are not social distancing anymore

Parks were packed this weekend and mobile phone data shows Americans are leaving their homes.

About 50% of those mobile phones that SafeGraph had data on stayed home on April 12, which was Easter — the highest point in the data. That number hasn't since come anywhere close, showing a steady decline with the most recent numbers showing that less than 40% stayed home on April 27.

The trend, SafeGraph says, is consistent across the entire country, though the degree to which movement is increasing is different. Some counties showed extreme drop-offs in social distancing, while some showed more mild curves.

"It might be due to people getting tired of staying at home or it could be due to people reacting to the news that states are being reopened," Ghader says. "We can't really say why this trend is happening ... but we can certainly see the trend in decrease of social distancing metrics."

Unfortunately, this virus doesn't have empathy for how long we've been quarantined, our lack of vitamin D, or our want for physical contact. While I understand there are folks struggling to stay indoors, we need remind ourselves that folks are still being admitted to the hospitals every day at a steady rate due to COVID-19 exposure. As long as there is an asymptomatic carrier, this virus will continue to thrive.

And don’t take my word for it…

One of my favorite accounts to follow on COVID-19 has been Andrew M. Slavitt, former Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In his latest post about relaxing social distancing as a mistake:

We are continually going to be looking at lagging data. Today we are seeing the results of early to mid-April. But if you are hearing our curve has flattened, it's likely not true. Don't get me wrong — if you look across the country from April 25 to May 1, new cases have dropped from 34,875 to 32,379. The sounds flat to down right? But that's misleading. If you're in New York, the numbers are way down. If you don't live in NY, it's a different story. To see what's going on, pretend like NY is its own country and look at the rest of the country.

Maybe nobody knows what's going on

Author Mark Manson, who I have a love-hate relationship with, recently published a delightful piece on COVID-19 as part of his weekly newsletter: Nobody Knows What is Going On.

As always, thanks for reading!

P.S. If you enjoyed this, share or sign up here: mindfulmoments.substack.com

Anything else? You can always hit "reply" to email me directly. 💌

Have a beautiful day!

Metta (loving-kindness),

Yellow Glitter Podcast | IG | YT | FB | TW | StevenWakabayashi.com

Lessons from two months of quarantine

Things I've learned during self-isolation, new podcast episode, focusing on better tech, retail shifts, and choosing anew

Hi friends,

Happy May.

For many of us, it's been more than a month of self-quarantine. It was a sudden shift to a lifestyle we have never experienced before. For me, my quarantine started at the beginning of March after returning from Asia. (It still blows my mind how I was out galavanting through South Korea and Japan so callously… times have changed.)

In this major lifestyle change, I’ve reflected on a few things of what has and hasn’t worked…

What hasn't worked 🚫: Being connected 24/7
It seems like I am working even more around the clock all the time. The workday starts at 7:00 am for some of my colleagues and ends at midnight for others, creating a stream of messages coming in all day long.

What has worked ✅: Setting boundaries, especially when I don’t want to
In addition to my work, I am growing side businesses and projects. A truth I have come to understand is that the more time I spend doing just one thing takes away from my larger vision. I remind myself to step away and resume later when I have more time.

What hasn't worked 🚫: Sleeping when my body felt tired
Due to a huge reduction in movement every single day (my step count barely hits 1000), my body is not as naturally tired as it was before. Combined with being on the computer all day and night, my circadian rhythm has been hijacked.

What has worked ✅: Forcing myself to sleep
After midnight, I try to force myself to bed and stay in bed until I fall asleep. While my monkey brain fights me, I find that I am much happier and at-ease the next day. This doesn’t work every single day and I am working to figure out how to get there.

What hasn't worked 🚫: Trying to stay on top of the news every day
As a part of my regular research on the novel coronavirus and world events, I've found that trying to follow the news every minute of every day has not only been exhausting, but extremely stress-inducing. Not to mention that most of the news is repetitive.

What has worked ✅: Setting my daily news intake to 15-30 minutes each day
I’ve been getting most of my news through Reddit recently, including r/coronavirus. Day over day, not much has shifted in terms of world news, and unsubscribing from unnecessary email newsletters have dramatically helped this as well.

What hasn't worked 🚫: Setting all of my goals on pause during this pandemic
In reality, this is going to go on for much longer than we expect. (I’m expecting until the end of this year with some degree of social isolation.) With that said, not having any goals for the year ends up wasting valuable time of our short lifetime.

What has worked ✅: Creating new goals based on current circumstances.
This moment is not meant to pause, but to shift focus onto other things. Adapting with the changing times. I spent the last few weeks reevaluating my life goals and prioritizing the ones that are in my control including personal growth (reading and writing), as well as deep introspection (meditating and time alone).

What hasn't worked 🚫: Worrying about my employment every day.
Not only have I been asked to reduce my hourly rate as a freelance designer, but many other contractors have also already been let go. I don’t know whether I will have a job every single day.

What has worked ✅: Having more faith in myself.
As much as I can worry about events that haven’t yet transpired, all I can do is to focus on the present and prepare for the future as best as I can. Reminding myself that during times of distress, I have made some of the most important decisions of my life, including traveling the world and moving across the country. What will happen, will happen, and I have faith in myself to be able to get through it when the time comes.

Do you have any tips on what has and hasn't worked for you?

Earlier this week, I recorded a podcast with Derek talking about racism impacting the Asian community during this time. We talk about why it’s hard standing up and some recommendations on how to call it in.

Apple Podcast | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Tune In | iHeartRadio | Overcast | Spotify

Stay safe and stay healthy.

Atoms Over Bits

Andreeson Horowitz, famed venture capitalist, wrote a passionate blog post about putting our focus into technology that reshapes our world vs. our newsfeed. It’s and we’re out of basic PPE and cleaning supplies. But fear not… we have emojis, AR face filters, and advanced AI.

Retail will never be the same

We are entering a new evolutionary stage of retail, in which big companies will get bigger, many mom-and-pop dreams will burst, chains will proliferate and flatten the idiosyncrasies of many neighborhoods, more economic activity will flow into e-commerce, and restaurants will undergo a transformation unlike anything the industry has experienced since Prohibition.

The Pandemic Will Change American Retail Forever by Derek Thompson for The Atlantic

One of my favorite quotes

"I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” -Carl Jung

As always, thanks for reading!

P.S. If you enjoyed this, share or sign up here: mindfulmoments.substack.com

Anything else? You can always hit "reply" to email me directly. 💌

Have a beautiful day!

Metta (loving-kindness),

Yellow Glitter Podcast | IG | YT | FB | TW | StevenWakabayashi.com

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