40 days of silence and solitude

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I did it! I made it through my 40 days. And you are probably wondering what this all entailed. Don’t worry, I did not keep myself in complete isolation.

40 days of silence and solitude. It was fasting on social media apps (specifically Snapchat and Instagram) and large social crowds. It was learning how to listen to God in the quiet, and being able to find peace in solitude. It was learning how to pray and meditate in my current circumstance. And every weekend of September I dragged myself into the woods to be in that meditative state. Of course, I didn’t have to traverse the mountain in order to do that. But it definitely helped.

And what did I get out of this? A lot of things. I can’t put all the details into one blog post, so bear with me. Anyway, these 40 days allowed me to experience goodness in the present moment, and taught me to find peace in the midst of the storm in my head. I learned how to be okay with being alone. It was such an eye-opening experience to set myself apart from a fast-pace world. Furthermore, I am a lot more calm than I was a month ago, and it amazes me to see where I am at right now.

Why did I do this? Because I was in the midst of noise, and it was very difficult for me to hear God and the word that is most pertinent to my walk. On a weekday evening, I was so angry at God and I kept questioning him. Then I finally sat on my bed and asked Him, “what do you want?” And he held my heart and said, “find me in solitude”. That was the moment I decided I needed to drop a lot of things, at least for a while. Why 40 days? You can guess that.

Besides meditating, praying, and hiking, here are a couple of other things I did during these 40 days:

1) Along with the Bible, I read a couple of self-help books including the ones listed below. Check them out! They were very helpful to my walk.

Invitation to Solitude and Silence by R. Barton

The Untethered Soul by M. Singer

Out of Solitude by H. Nouwen

Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World by M. Williams and D. Penman

A little side goodie. Here is a quote from The Untethered Soul that I take to heart:

Talk to people because they are interesting, not because you are lonely. You want to talk to people because you genuinely like them, not because you need for them to like you. -Michael Singer

2) I optimized my meditation environment, especially when I was at home. Call me a holistic nut but I love essential oils, candles, and white noise- preferably the sound of a stream from one of my apps. Below are links to some of these items.

Essential Oil Diffuser

Peppermint Essential Oil (I love this one! It helps alleviate my tension headaches.)

Essential Oils

3) I spent more time with my pets and cleaned up their tanks more (yes! I have reptiles and I love them dearly!) Just simply holding and watching my babies keeps me calm…and intrigued. Sometimes they are little derps!

4) I journaled. And that helped me process.

What do you do during your solitude time? Please comment below!

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When better doesn’t seem like it

I’ll be a bit more transparent here. It doesn’t matter that I’m a therapist, at least in this context. I am human, and I feel. I fail, I hurt, I stumble, and I cry. July and August was a dark time for me but I endured. As much as I didn’t want to, I started to journal. It’s October, and I’m looking back at what I wrote- and every sentence just seems so raw.

But it was then that I also wrote the most pertinent and uplifting content to my own journey. On one page I wrote down my own proverbs as well as ones that I’ve heard of, and called this piece “When Better Doesn’t Seem Like It”.

Better it is to sink with faith than to swim without it.

Better it is to find you in solitude than to lose you in a crowd.

Better it is to die in vein than to live without purpose.

Better it is to enjoy the moment than to fear the future.

Stronger is a tiny flame in a darkened room.

Stronger is a sacrifice than to watch the world drown.

Stronger is a patient heart than one that rushes.

And here is something you can have in mind while hiking up in the woods:

For your anxiety: focus on the tree in front of you, not the whole forest.

For your depression: focus on the whole forest, not the tree in front of you.

Faith is not the result of striving, but a result of surrender. – Bill Johnson

NorCal & Bay Area Hikes

Happy October! We’ve moved on to the next month. September was quite an adventure, figuratively speaking and in a literal sense. Just imagine hiking 5-10 miles in forest groves, with towering redwood trees and a steady stream that follows the trail; this is what my September weekends entailed- morning hikes in state and county parks all by myself, and sometimes with my husky-bulldog.

You may think I’ve completely digressed from the topic of therapy and self-care, but hiking is definitely relevant as it promotes physical and mental wellness. With hiking, you get the benefit of exercise and enjoying nature. You get to be away from the noisy, fast-pace city life. You get a chance to practice mindfulness in the woods. And if you’re like me (a person who prefers hiking alone), you get some peace, silence, and solitude.

So here are the hikes/ trails I’ve visited last month:

1) Point lobos – 1 mile

I drove 1.5 hours away from home to find a lovely coastal trail. The hike was short and sweet, so before I left I just marveled at the tide pools. This was when I decided I need a strenuous, more lengthy hike.

2) Big Basin, Berry Creek Falls – 11 miles

THIS was what I needed. Berry Creek Falls is a moderate to strenuous level hike that can last up to 5 hours. You get a chance to go deep into the woods until you can only hear the wind in the trees. Mind you- in other parks I’ve been to, I still was able to hear the cars speeding down the highway and chatty people from behind. Being “lost” in the woods gave me peace and solitude. The falls were a bit dried out, but it was still worth seeing. Just imagine coming here after a heavy rainstorm.

Also the banana slugs were cute.

3) Mount Tamalpais, Cataract Falls Trail – 8 miles

I always bring Meeko, my husky-bulldog to this one. This wasn’t the first time I hiked this. I love the little falls, lagoons, and the cute little bridge that crosses the stream.

4) Quicksilver Lake – 5 miles

This wasn’t quite a hike to me, but it was still worth it. I brought Meeko and I loved watching him marvel at wildlife. Midway, I got to see one of our lame “lakes”! (It’s actually a lake reservoir).

5) Mount Tamalpais, Dipsea and Ravine Trail – 6 miles

This hike was so colorful and scenic. I started off from the beach then traversed the forest. Going up the stairs was pretty strenuous but I made it up. Midway, I was up on the mountain’s meadow. It was a gorgeous view- the golden meadows contrasting starkly against the ocean.

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Have you ever hiked any of these trails? I still have county and state parks yet to visit. If you have any recommendations, please comment below!

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

Let’s Talk Burnout.

Hi friend. You read the title, and I assume you are here because you are in burnout. As a result of working long and tedious hours, you are experiencing such low motivation, exhaustion, irritability, and depressive moods. You are now trying to figure out what to do. I feel for you. I’ve been there- not knowing how to handle my burnout symptoms and trying out different approaches that didn’t even end up working. The struggle is real, especially for those who work in California’s Bay Area.

Much of the research address burnout prevention, which is pretty frustrating in my opinion. Of course you can prevent it, but executing such awareness can be difficult in a fast-pace work environment. By the time you even read an article on burnout prevention, you’ve already burnt out! Although you may not find an immediate cure for your symptoms, you can still manage them.

Here are the burnout-alleviating approaches I find helpful for myself:

1) Being kind to yourself.

It use to bother me that I wasn’t doing anything at home during my days off. I would be lying on the couch with my neurotic mind screaming at me. “Why aren’t you doing anything? What’s tired? You’re so lazy.” Rather, give yourself some positive affirmations and tell yourself its okay to rest. Don’t be ashamed of taking a break. Being kind to yourself will even prevent you from snowballing up unnecessary guilt.

2) Taking it one step at a time. 

At this point you’ve lost almost all motivation. Maybe you have another big task but just don’t feel like doing it. Thinking about the next project may be too explosive for you. I’ve found it helpful to put the last bit of energy I have into my next step, even if its a small one. Give yourself some praise for getting up from bed and putting both feet on the ground. Such a small step will lead to another, and eventually to your project.

3) Keeping work things at work. 

We’ve all been there. We continue to think about work-related tasks at home (unless you work at home, then go ahead and rephrase this). You’re home for a reason. And that is to rest and recharge, and perhaps to spend time with your family and pets. So when you start thinking about what to say to your client in the middle of your day off, tell your mind to stop. Some of you may not agree to this due to different work ethics, but I would encourage you to make your days off as “sacred” time.

And that is all I have in the meantime. Please comment or share about your own helpful tips!

Peace is not the absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means. -Ronald Regan

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