In the summer of 2015, I was suffering from empty nest syndrome after both my children left for college. In an attempt to continue to stay connected, I started a conversation with them via a text message. I start my day reflecting on something positive, often a quote. I love quotes. I would send the quote and reflection prompt to my children, which was disseminated to friends and family. My son and daughter began forwarding the text to family and friends, and I too began sharing it with my parents and some friends, medical students, residents, and colleagues.
This led to a large virtual community partaking in a philosophical dialogue with my father, Shyam Kumar Parashar, and myself. We published these early conversations in our book Rhythms of our Hearts in 2017, and our conversations carried on. I am honored to collaborate with my dad and happy to say have just released a sequel titled Reflections from the Heart: An Invitation to Pause, Reflect and Renew.
While I continued my ritual of daily reflection, the act of writing and sharing became more sporadic. I was aware of my own need to pause! The last few years have been plagued with so many uncertainties and so much change. Add to that the COVID-19 pandemic, which impacted each and every one of us in the world irrespective of status, race, gender, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.
I myself feel like I am surrounded by external noises and my own internal noise, conversations of what ifs, when, how? Every time I turn on the TV or view social media, there is enough negative information coming back at me to let me know that this is not the world I want to live in. These tumultuous and uncertain times demand of us the greatest possible expression of humanism.
In spite of a deliberate attempt to not watch the news or turn on the television, I find my mind racing around so many of these complex issues. I realized I had to unpack the difficult conversations with myself and my trusted community, lean into that discomfort, and ask myself: What is my purpose? How can I show up fully as my true human self, allowing and inviting others to do the same, in spite of these uncertainties and changes? I needed to hold on to my faith, which helps me ground and center myself and helps me renew and find hope.
I found myself thinking about my early years in the United States. My four-year old daughter was learning the piano. She practiced on a keyboard at home and as I oversaw her piano lessons, I remember reciting the music notes out loud with her.
“Do, re mi, pause,” we sang. “Pause, Natasha, there’s a rest there,” I remember pointing out to her as she tried to continue playing the music.
“Why do I have to pause?” came her reply.
“Because there’s a rest in the music,” I said, pointing to the sheet of music.
As I think about her innocent question and my literal answer, I’m reminded of the beauty in that pause, the value in the rest, the making of music in that pause. I wish I had had the wisdom to give her some more answers and maybe inculcate a practice of pausing both for her and myself.
Today’s political scene, the pandemic, tensions around racism, equality and justice, the climate-related challenges, the impact of isolation, all these issues have their lasting effects of rage, anger, and hate, perhaps a transference of the grief and the loneliness that we are feeling.
All these issues also have added to the busyness and the time poverty that we were already experiencing. We work in a world which values “busyness!”
Taking time for a pause maybe perceived as a sign of weakness. But taking a break replenishes the mental and emotional energy associated with working hard, and thus improves work performance and boosts energy. I’ve learned that turning my break into a ritual can expand my consciousness and open my heart, replenishing my spirit as well.
A ritual is something I do with an intentionality, a purpose, an inner awareness of my own emotions. My daily morning ritual focuses on a pause and reflection on something positive, often a quote based on what my mind is thinking about. These quotes serve as a “third thing”—a good metaphor serving to evoke in me what my mind and soul need me to listen and attend to. This purposeful reflection makes me more aware on a deeper level of all my emotions, helps me name my emotions and accept them for what they are without judgment for having them. My mind often wanders, so I have learned to be kind to myself and, without judgment, center back on the ritual.
After I share the quote and reflection by text or email, my father usually responds before the day is done, offering me another opportunity for more reflection and even a deeper understanding or perhaps a reframing. We continue our reflection in solitude and community, and by sharing with the reflections in our books. Giving myself the permission to take time to pause and rest allows me to reflect, recharge and renew. They remind me of my own strength, and my trusted relationships—my healing community. Most important and valuable is that the practice of these rituals reminds me to respect and be kind to myself and others, which leaves me with Happy Thoughts!!! There indeed is immense power and beauty in taking a pause.
We hope these quotes, prompts and reflections will do the same for you. May they offer you the ability to reframe and reset your thinking, recharge and replenish yourselves, recover, and even rejoice. You can find our new book at Amazon.com.
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As 2023 unfolds, how do you tend to well-being, community and resilience? I will post reflections on these themes and invite you to join in the conversation here or on Twitter or Instagram with your thoughts or what you are doing for self-care and care of others. My book explores such ideas too: Resilient Threads: Weaving Joy and Meaning into Well-Being.
Thank you Ankita!
This is such a beautiful post
Thank you for the reminder!