JustWind Mindset in the Face of COVID-19

Throughout the surreal developments of the last couple weeks, I have doubted that there is anything of value I can provide—through my writing, through my coaching, through my online presence. I have thought, “Why bother?” because I have felt so overwhelmed by the news on COVID-19, by the abrupt transition to working from home (which I would love, under the right circumstances and with time to prepare and organize), the shock of K-12 school closures, the end of track and other spring sport seasons and the uncertainty and fear of the future. I made a significant investment in a business course just days before everything fell apart, but working on my business in any public way seems both insensitive and futile at this time. Still, I have to believe that we will get through this, that, collectively, we will be okay.

More than any other event that I can recall in my lifetime, it seems that we are all in the same boat. Certainly, some of us have more robust resources to cope. But we are all living this previously unimaginable reality that has so suddenly become ours.

Health and compassion are my themes. My goal is to dwell at the intersection of those two themes and to contribute to their growth in the world. So, how can I best do that in this interrupted life?

For my answer, I return to the roots of my blog that evolved to include my coaching practice and the book I am (still, despite this dramatic change of life) writing: the JustWind mindset. For those who are unfamiliar with the story behind the JustWind name, you can read my original blog post here. To give a brief recap, the concept originated in June 2002, on the last night of Biking Across Kansas, a cross-state bike ride that I love and in which I have participated since 1999. Kansas is windy. That is an undisputed fact. Every BAK has wind, but 2002 was particularly windy (even featuring a severe thunderstorm with 95-mph straight winds that shredded tents). The wind had beaten us up all week, and I was starting to get a cold. On the last evening, as I looked for our bags among those that had been unloaded from the luggage truck, I complained grumpily to my friend David about the wind. He shrugged and gently said, “It’s just wind.”

I had a moment of profound insight: I could choose to be miserable (even doing something I loved—cycling), or I could choose to recognize the challenge for what it was and keep turning the pedals to move forward and stay upright. I realized that I could do this, not just on the bike, but in every aspect of life. It was truly an awakening for me and one that has led to a great deal of (long and protracted and always-evolving) growth for me. Essentially, I realized that we have the power to choose our perspectives, and the ones we choose shape our lives.

I decided that sharing this reminder is the primary value that I can add to the coping strategies for managing the disruption created by this pandemic. I am endeavoring to remember to engage the JustWind mindset as I make my way through these strange days. My effort is imperfect. I have had moments of crisis and extreme agitation. I panicked last week when I had to make a rushed 50-mile round trip to my office, when I heard that I may lose access entirely in this incredibly busy advising season that has suddenly transitioned to phone advising. I yelled at Logan later that evening when he kept throwing a plastic tumbler into the stainless-steel sink, noisily and unsuccessfully trying to land it inside another one (a version of the highly irritating bottle-flipping craze of a few years ago). He persisted when I asked him to stop, and I lost it. But, when I can remember, it helps.

We all have to find our own best ways of handling this, and I suspect that the issues are different for introverts and extroverts, but I will share some of my strategies and hope they help. Please share your own in the comments. We can learn from each other.

My husband Kenny reads COVID-19 news out loud what seems like approximately 23 hours a day. While I agree that it is important to stay informed, this wears on me. I am working primarily at home, Logan’s school is closed, and Kenny is on an indefinite hiatus from his work as a bus driver and groundskeeper for the school district. We are all suddenly together in what feels like a very small house for many hours a day. Logan would be on Xbox nonstop if we would let him. Kenny reads the news out loud to me. While I am working at home, while I am studying my business course, while I am writing (He is sleeping now.), he reads. While I am dialing the phone for my next student appointment, while I am tracking appointments, while I am responding to email, he reads.

These are the things I am doing to cope, to escape, to strive to thrive:

  • Empowered movement: For me, this consists of cycling about three evenings a week (Thank you, daylight savings time!) for 15-20 miles and building mileage on the weekend days. I rode 30 miles each day this weekend, despite cold, dreary conditions. A couple mornings a week, I do yoga (Yoga with Kassandra is my favorite.), strength training or Foundation Training. Training my body helps me to feel better physically and mentally and to feel stronger and be more resilient. It prepares me to face more effectively whatever comes my way.
  • Reading: My life is too full (even in this strange new world) to allow time for simply sitting and reading, but using skills I honed years ago as an undergraduate who worked full time and went to school at night, I read while I am getting dressed, washing dishes, folding laundry, brushing my teeth—every spare moment. I read over 60 books a year this way, and they help me stay sane and continue growing and evolving. They help a lot now. I just finished reading Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, by Chip & Dan Heath. It was very good, and I gleaned from it some useful decision-making strategies. After finishing it this morning, I started Deep Listening: A Healing Practice to Calm Your Body, Clear Your Mind and Open Your Heart, by Jillian Pransky. Reading, like cycling, is a tremendous escape for me.
  • Meditation: My morning meditation practice, as well as some moving meditation on the bike, helps me stay grounded and centered. I incorporate breathing exercises and Kundalini yoga, and it starts my day from a place of peace and grace.
  • Plant-powered nourishment: Of course, I eat plants, not animals all the time, but it is even more important to be mindful that the food is nourishing and supporting my mental and physical health at this time. It is easy to want to eat just comfort food in this crazy situation, but I try to keep in mind the bigger picture. As I wrote this yesterday, I had just finished my breakfast smoothie. I included hemp seed, maca, turmeric and magnesium gluconate for extra nutritional support. This morning, I had Kashi and dry oatmeal with frozen berries and cherries, cocoa (full of antioxidants!), walnuts, vegan yogurt, ground flaxseed, maca, turmeric and magnesium gluconate. Breakfast is important, but so is everything we put into our mouths throughout the day.
  • Hope: As I said above, I have to believe that we will get through this. I do believe we will be changed. I hope the changes are for the better. Some of them may not be or may not feel like they are, but we can choose to grow through the changes. So, I am not relinquishing my goals, although I am giving myself some grace and adjusting the pace of my pursuit. I am still writing my book, writing blog posts, working my business course (but holding off on public-facing activities because pushing forward with those seems insensitive) and pursuing certification as a running coach. I am choosing to trust that everything will happen in the right time, in the way that it should.
  • Structure: All too suddenly, our days look different. Even if I have an ultimate goal of being able to work from home, I want it to be in circumstances I choose, not a situation thrust upon me, in my busiest time of semester, with no time to prepare thoughtfully and comfortably. So, I am creating a new structure for myself. I took time yesterday to establish a structure for Logan’s days because this cannot be perpetual spring break. He needs athletic (He has continued to run.), academic and household responsibilities each day. There will still be time for Xbox (although I have to admit that I absolutely hate that thing). Structure helps us to make sense of our days and make use of our time for productive activities.
  • JustWind Mindset: We don’t know how long this will last or how brutal it may get. On my bike, I literally have been blown off the road by the Kansas wind. I have felt many times like I am being pushed backward by headwind or could be knocked over by crosswind. I just keep turning the pedals (and, after some deep breaths, get back on the road after having been blown off). I am remembering all this and trying to apply it to COVID-19. It will change our days, our plans and our ways of life, but we can handle it. We just have to choose the empowered perspective that allows us to believe we can and then take action to do so.

As I said, I would love to see your comments about how you are striving to thrive during this pandemic. Please let us know.

I wish all my readers (and all the world) health, safety, happiness and peace in this scary and uncertain time. Take care of yourselves and take care of each other. Let’s follow the CDC and WHO, as well as local, recommendations, guidelines and orders. Let’s try to stop this thing as soon as we can, take what we learn and move forward powerfully. Blessings to all!

“The moment you accept responsibility for everything in your life is the moment you gain the power to change anything in your life.” –Hal Elrod

My Top 5 Tips for Building a Spirit-Nourishing Meditation Practice

Continuing my series of “Top 5” posts, I share here my best tips and most important practices for developing the energy, mindset and well-being to accomplish what we want to accomplish and live with no regrets. If you want to catch up on past posts, you can read my energy tips here,  my mindset tips here, my well-being tips here and my plant-based nourishment tips here.

I want to be clear that I do not consider myself a meditation expert. However, I am proud to have practiced meditation on a consistent, daily basis for the past year and a half. I realize that is nothing compared to many practitioners, who have meditated for decades, but it feels like an achievement to me because I believed for many years that I was incapable of meditating. I realize now that part of the reason for this was my narrow view of what constitutes meditation. Mostly, I have referred to what I am doing as a mindfulness practice, as opposed to a meditation practice. Lately, though, I have come to view mindfulness as a broader state of being, of which my daily meditation practice is a part. I feel like I have developed my own, evolving practice that serves my needs and feeds my spirit. My goal in this post is to share the most helpful strategies I have used for cultivating this practice.

  1. Approach your practice with self-compassion. The single most helpful idea I have come across regarding meditation is contained in these words by Sharon Salzberg: “Beginning again and again is the actual practice, not a problem to overcome so that one day we can come to the ‘real meditation.’” That idea is so freeing and makes so much sense. Much like what I have learned about living in the present moment, rather than waiting for my “real life” to begin at some future point, when everything is in place, Sharon Salzberg’s words encourage me to recognize the value of compassionately beginning again, when my thoughts distract me. The discipline of doing so is the practice. It validates that, as long as I continually release the thoughts when I recognize that they have highjacked my mindfulness and return to my breath, I am meditating exactly as I “should.” There is nothing to correct, and I am experiencing all the benefits of a meditation practice built on commitment and resilience.
  2. Develop a ritual. Make your meditation practice a non-negotiable part of your day. It has become as crucial to my well-being as exercise. I find that it works best for me to practice in the morning, either immediately upon waking or directly following my morning workout, if it is in my downstairs gym. My mindfulness extends to my time on the bike and, to a lesser extent, walking, but this does not replace my daily dedicated practice time. It is bonus time that is often extremely fruitful, yet my day would be incomplete without my meditation ritual. Look at your schedule, decide what works best for you and implement a ritual for getting into the right mental space. Part of my ritual involves solitude, at least mentally. I am pleased to report that I successfully maintained my daily practice while Biking Across Kansas by meditating in my sleeping bag immediately upon waking each morning. Although I was in a room full of people, I found solitude in the darkness. By establishing a clear ritual that includes a time and place, as well as a beginning routine, you will set yourself up to practice consistently.
  3. Open your mind to what meditation can look like, and allow your practice to evolve.  For a long time, I thought meditation was only sitting cross-legged on the floor and releasing all thought. I can’t remember what changed my mind and allowed me to consider a more expansive definition. My health coach training? Maybe. Whatever it was that opened my mind to crafting my own practice, I am grateful. I believe in finding what resonates with you and allowing it to evolve when your instinct leads you in a different or additional direction. My current practice looks like this: I begin with square breathing. Then, I mentally recite my Sankalpa (which I updated after reflection on my 50th birthday). I express gratitude for guidance, wisdom, direction and protection and release what no longer serves me. Affirmations and visualizations help deepen the meaning of m practice. I include a couple Kundalini yoga poses that I find calming. Depending on what I feel I need, I may include Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). I also always choose a quote for reflection before I begin and spend time simply focusing on my breath. This assortment of components really works for me. Experiment and trust your instincts to develop a practice that is uniquely yours. Be open to allowing it to evolve. This has made all the difference for me.
  4. Use a meditation app. I use Insight Timer (free version) and love it. There are others out there, as well as a premium version of Insight Timer. Find what works best for you. The functions I find most useful are the timer, ambient sound and the tracker. I set the time My life is full, and, at this point, I generally set the timer for five to 15 minutes, although I sometimes choose to continue meditating after I hear my ending tone. I like the variety of ambient sounds offered by Insight Timer and vary them day by day. Finally, I feel motivated by the “streak” I have built up on the tracking log (318 days consistently using Insight Timer). Although it is not the reason I meditate, I want to keep my streak going!
  5. Feel and express gratitude for your practice. Recognizing the benefits meditation has bestowed on me, I am deeply grateful for the freedom and dedication to meditate. I feel like a whole world has opened to me. Part of my practice reflects this gratitude. I truly look forward to my daily meditation and feel a burst of excitement in my body when I prepare to practice. I am so thankful that meditation has become part of my life. Remembering this adds depth and richness to, and enhances the benefits of, my practice.

I have been amazed at the benefits I can attribute to my consistent practice. I feel healthier than I have ever been. There are other factors contributing to my well-being, but I believe that my meditation practice has put me over the top, apparently enhancing my immunity and certainly improving my stress-management ability. I am happier and more peaceful. My gratitude for the many blessings in my life is deeper. I still have plenty of room for growth, but I have become a true believer in the power of meditation. I would love to assist you in your journey toward living with no regrets. Connect with me at sheri@justwindcoach.com. You can also click this link to schedule a complimentary coaching call. To connect with others who are interested in living as well as possible, become part of our JustWind Producers of Power & Purpose Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1958072857557272/.