Part of the most beautiful thing that has come from my move to Shanghai and my own desires is that I have made time to pursue lots of my own passions. Through my daytime job as a teacher I have been able to become a student (again). I would hope that we all want to be lifelong students, but dedicating the time to learn and explore can be challenging when our lives seem like they are going a million miles an hour. Creativity has always been such a huge part of my life and something I use as an outlet for stress, place to find serenity and for pure fun too! Fun and silliness is so important.
This past weekend I experienced a very scary health ordeal that put me in the hospital for over five hours and had half a dozen tests done including ultrasounds, EKG, X-ray and enzyme analysis. I was sitting in one of my favorite cafes eating a Korean lunch on the phone with family when my stomach started churning and a pain in my shoulder and chest overtook me. The few days before, I had experienced some odd sensations in my stomach but nothing that I was concerned about as they came and went fast. I took a cab home, shoved some personal items into a bag and took a cab straight to the hospital. I knew something was seriously wrong and had tears pouring down my face as I tried to breathe. Being sick in a foreign country is really scary! Plus, the level of pain I was experiencing was like nothing I had ever felt and I had to focus on taking slow and deep breathes in and out.
Happy Singles Day! Singles day is November 11th and is the biggest shopping day of the year in China with sales galore. Black Friday has nothing on China’s Singles Day. I have dived into the world of Taobao and Baopal online app shopping and there is really no going back. That being said, I still do enjoy shopping in person. Call me old-fashioned. I thought I would include a few pictures of life lately that have made me laugh, amused me or brought me a lot of happiness (the food). Life in Shanghai remains wonderful and delightful even as the weather gets colder and days get shorter.
November 1st marks my birthday so HAPPY BIRTHDAY to me! I am writing this at my yoga studio (in a journal to be typed later) before an evening class to conclude my first day being 24. It is special to celebrate in China where I was born and turned one years old. I’m in awe of the past 2.5 months in Shanghai and while a lot has of course changed, some fundamental aspects of my life have not. I still have wonderful family and friends who are so caring and kind, I am still and will always be grateful for my mental and physical health and I love ice cream. I also still would like to think that I am funny. If not hilarious.
“Some people feel more alive when they travel and visit unfamiliar places or foreign countries because at those times sense perception-experiencing-takes up more of their consciousness than thinking.”
I have finished two phenomenal books both by the author and renowned spiritual leader, Eckhart Tolle. I finished his first book, The Power of Now, several weeks ago and completed the sequel, A New Earth, just the other day over a bowl of noodles before work! Both books are so beautiful, inspiring and if you are open to the ideas can really transform the small and large concepts and moments in life. The second book took me longer to read as I wanted to soak in the words as much as I could. I have a notebook where I write down all the quotes I highlight while reading to refresh my brain on words that moved me and to keep them all tucked away. Both books are so powerful and I read them in the right time at my life. I can’t say that I would have been as receptive to the messages in the books at past moments in my life given my circumstances and state of mind.
“Satori is a moment of Presence, a brief stepping out of the voice in your head, the thought processes, and their reflection in the body as emotion.”
The quote I started the post with is one of my favorite and so deeply resonated with me when I read it. I have always loved traveling so much with a huge reason being how I felt traveling. I could never really put it into words that fully expressed how I felt. But I always felt so alive. And many people resonate with this feeling of “aliveness” while on the road. Tolle puts is so eloquently; the aliveness we often feel when traveling is because our senses are on overload and often superior to our thinking and mental state that creates anxiety, stress…etc. In a sense, I don’t feel as though I am traveling here in Shanghai. I very much live here in Shanghai and while I do travel around China, it is quite different living in Shanghai opposed to visiting for a week or a few.
“There are no random events, nor are there events or things that exist by and for themselves, in isolation.”
I do feel very much alive here in Shanghai. But not on overdrive, a very balanced sense of being that I haven’t always had, especially consistently. Another huge theme in both of Tolle’s book is relationships; those with other people, yourself and the world. Relationships really are the fundamental core of life and Tolle does a beautiful job of highlighting how everything is connected. The other major theme is the ego in relation to self and how it effects your existence. Everyone has an ego, but there are healthy and unhealthy ways to manage this beast!
“It is not easy to live with an enlightened person, or rather it is so easy that the ego finds it extremely threatening.”
“Another word for non-reaction is forgiveness. To forgive is to overlook, or rather to look through.”
Let me know if you love Eckhart Tolle too and the best messages that resonated with you.
I come to you writing this entry from under my IKEA covers with a 4 liter bottle of water next to me, a pile of kleenex on the other side and half a dozen riccola cough drops tossed around on my bed. Yes, I am sick. I can’t remember the last time I was this sick! I am not a sickly person but this horrendous cough, congestion, fatigue and fever has really done me in these past few days!
“The quality of our lives depend on the quality of our relationships.” -Esther Perel
Lately I have been focusing on the different relationships in my lives including with myself, friends, family, colleagues, students and the new people I meet everyday in Shanghai. Esther Perel is a psychotherapist who is most known for writing about intimate relationships in her best selling novels, TED talk and podcast that I have started listening to. She is so in-tune with relationship dynamics and I continue to listen to her podcast which is groundbreaking in its approach and look into different relationships and the complex elements that life brings.
“Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete.”
One of my goals post-college and moving to Shanghai is to read more books. I have always loved reading, but college took it’s toll on my personal reading given I had dozens of books and textbooks to read every semester (especially when I had an English class which was often). The first week I was in Shanghai, I found a great foreign book store near People’s Square and have frequented it numerous times since. Sometimes I just go and read a book in the store, however I have splurged on four books so far, one of which I have completely finished and ADORE. The latest book that I finished is “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanith which is about Paul’s journey as neurosurgeon who is diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Paul wrote this book as he was dying and it is filled with such profound lessons about life, love and following your passions. I had not doubt in my mind that I would move to China and teach English. However, I would recently learn that this decision I made would come with unexpected heartbreaks.
A few days ago marked the completion of my first month in Shanghai. And what a month it has been! Shanghai still has an energy to it that I don’t forsee myself feeling like it’s become tarnished or old. We all get to choose our perspective and put in the daily work towards happiness and joy and I consciously make an effort to so. The overall happiness I feel is not because of one thing I did nor does it happen instantly; rather it’s a series of decisions and moments. This post is not themed, but just a fun update on life lately.
More than ever, I am a strong believer in intuition and female intuition is a VERY REAL thing. Sorry guys, our intuition is one of our many superpowers that you just don’t have. This is speaking in terms of the gender normative language. People always ask how I ended up in Shanghai teaching English and I usually give some simplified answer of wanting to move to another country because I love traveling and teaching seemed a good door into that. However, it really is a lot more that. Over five years ago when I was young and naive (more than I am now), I started reading blogs of people who moved abroad to teach English after college. People did it for various reasons with the most popular being: to travel and see the world, pay off students loans, see if they teaching, runaway from their unfulfilling jobs and because they had no clue what else they were going to do. I wouldn’t say that my reason is really any of them or a combination. Rather it was my intuition. I just knew that’s what I was going to do because it felt so right. And it does now that I am here!