A little thing that can change a lot.

This spring – right before all the craziness with Covid-19 – I have started meditating, for the first time in my life. Nobody encouraged me to do that. No one recommended an app or some YouTube channel to listen to. It happened spontaneously. It came to me naturally. Since last year I have started having anxiety. It probably had roots in my family’s financial problems and my own personal conflicts. Once, in April, I was taking a walk to clear my mind, calm down my nerves, and stop negative thoughts. And I couldn’t do it. I realized at that moment that I could not control my anxiety anymore. It controlled me. It became this grotesque monster, eating me from the inside. I felt hopeless. I understood I needed help. Absentmindedly, I clicked on the audio-book app and downloaded the first available mediation book.

Truly best choice I had made at that moment. The audio-book turned out to be the perfect meditation guide for beginners. For 21 days, it had daily 10-minute tracks which introduced basic things about meditation. I remember turning on the first track during my walk, and a soft, soothing female voice reassured me that everything would be okay. I would figure it out. Life was beautiful and problems were momentarily. And peace was still possible despite the anxiety. 10 minutes was enough for me to understand I wanted to do it every day. This absolute harmony of mind and body could be addictive. And I did not mind that positive addiction.

It did become a healthy habit for me. Rarely there is a day when I don’t meditate now. It has been 5 months since I started meditating, and my desire has been only increasing to make it part of my life – forever. Every day these 20 minutes (I now meditate for more than 10 mins) are the blissful moments of relaxation of the body and stillness of the mind. Every time it is different. Every day I learn something about myself. It is kind of cool to watch your own mind, notice when it drifts away, and bring it back to the present moment. You feel so powerful by letting it go.

I think one needs to grow up to meditate. To my shame, I used to have wrong assumptions about meditation and people who did it. I used to be friends with someone who would meditate for 3 hours a day, and I thought he was insane, spending so much time in the world of the mind, instead of living in reality. I thought it was crazy to meditate every day. I was really immature. I judged. I needed to grow up and discover meditation years later. It is funny how things turn out in our lives and how much we change.

If you struggle with anger issues, depression, anxious thoughts, pessimism, I do encourage you to try meditation. It made me feel so much better. I believe it will do the same to you. It can be a little thing that can change a lot in you and your life.

Keep calm and choose meditation.

Online Fall

The trees have stared changing their bright-green color, and a new semester has slowly crawled up to us. Here we are – September, 2020 – the year of Covid-19, quarantine, and online studying for everyone involved in the education. In Canada, most schools resumed in-person classes while the universities opted for online education for the whole semester. The decision about Winter semester has not been made yet, but I feel that Covid-related cases will soon go up and the second lock-down is very real in the near future.

Last week was the first time I used Zoom after two months of a summer break. I was nervous to meet up to 200 students online – I am teaching five different courses at two universities this semester. It is such a strange feeling to see my students as little boxes of moving faces instead of me standing in front of the audience and reading everyone’s body language, hearing the tone of their voices, and feeling the overall atmosphere of the room. Even though the first impression can be wrong, seeing someone in person gives you the much-needed information to establish a healthy relationship – compared to meeting a person behind the screen for the first time and trying to catch as much emotion as possible from a tiny square in which everyone is enclosed. It is such a fragmented sense of people and environment.

What I noticed right away this semester is that if before, the students would come to my class and rarely talk to each other to make friends as all of them were from different departments, and they met together in this classroom only for the required English course – if before it was like that, now, I guess, after months of no social contact and isolation, they are really hungry for communication, thirsty for any human contact. I noted this right away. They told me they were happy I chose Zoom (not asynchronous type of teaching) to meet regularly and discuss the material. They did not mind turning on their cameras. They wrote 100! messages in the chat (one of Zoom options) during our first class to greet each other and exchange their social media information. And you know, I am happy that my class can contribute, even a little bit, to the students’ feeling of belonging, sense of community, and healthy communication in these lonely times.

So, here we are – Fall semester. Cameras are on, volume up, zoom in and zoom out. It is new. It is weird. But at least we are all in this together. So, let’s get the best of this year and have maybe-the most memorable semester in our life. Zoom-zoom!

Behind the screen

We do live in the world where texting is slowly replacing calling or talking in person. Texting is easy, fast, convenient. Very often, you can hide your true emotions behind the texts as, no matter how good an emoji you choose, it cannot replace your face expression, your voice or intonation, your eyes, and body language. It simply cannot. There is limitation to texting. Lack of personal touch, emotional note.

Yesterday one of my best friends called me, crying, to say that her boyfriend broke up with her. They have dated for almost a year. Living in different cities, they managed to come see each other almost every two weeks. They spent all their vacation days with each other, and in summer they lived together for two months. They got to know the families and friends of each other. They had plans for future. They wanted to be together. Until yesterday.

Yesterday he broke up with my friend. And he did it over a text message. He wasn’t ready for commitment or anything serious. And while he explained to her in great detail what was not working for him, the text message left so many things unanswered. My friend was in the state of shock. She called me to ask for help, and we talked for hours. I felt so much pain for her. I cried for her loss. And while it was about her heartbreak, it also brought so many memories for me.

I’ve also had an experience of getting this kind of goodbye texts from boyfriends. These texts were from someone I spent years with. Someone I was ready to share my life with. Somebody we decided to move in together. Yet, despite that, their choice of break-up was sending a text message and being done with it. And while I could understand the reason for separation, I could never understand the way it was done – through a poor text message.

If you had the desire to spend weeks, months or years with one person. If you let this person into your life. If you shared good, bad, or usual days with him or her. If you kissed their lips, their face, their body. If you let them into your circle of friends and family. If you took them seriously. If you let them open their heart and trust you. If you said your first “I love you” to their face, have the courage to say goodbye while looking in their eyes. I know it is extremely hard to reject or hurt someone, and you might think text message is an easier way to let that person go, but it is easier for you. Not for them. You end up hurting them two times: first, by not reciprocating their feeling of love; and, second, by not respecting them enough to say it in person, to look in their eyes and say honestly: I do not love you anymore.

Don’t break up with your partner over a text message. You might have your valid reasons to end relationships, but end them in a humane way. Cell phones do not have a heart, but you do. Show your emotions to this person for the last time. Don’t hide behind the screen. Don’t.