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#003: My wellbeing journey in the past five years

Danling Xiao

I wondered, can our wellbeing and economy grow hand-in-hand together? What I have learnt in the past five years, the answer is yes. Prioritise our wellbeing, everything else will follow. I believe wellbeing should be the most prioritised aspect in every entrepreneur.

In this episode I shared my wellbeing journey in the past five years and the wisdom I've learnt from this journey. Hope you find something useful from it! 

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Script

Hello again! It’s Danling here. Thank you so much for your support on our COVID special service.

I am so grateful for all the wonderful things that have happened in the past two weeks. For me and Michelle, the best thing in this collaboration is the joy working with each other. We had been selling to the customers, but we had also been sending out the fruit and vegetable  boxes to friends who are affected by COVID-19. 

My friends Maureen and Michelle made a purchase on the website, using the name ‘Pocahontas Beauty’ who lives on 15 Pussy Cat Street. realised it was a prank when I received the birthday present from them!

Speaking of these two wonderful humans, I am so proud of what they have done during this period. As the lockdown started, they installed the Newtown Blessing Box with their flatmate Joy. The Newtown Blessing Box was a big empty cupboard set on the street, said to be ‘gender neutral’ - actually Michelle called it ‘just a bloody cupboard!’. It’s now filled up with everything from bread to toilet paper by the locals. You should check it out yourself, and drop off some food or daily essentials if you can. It’s in the corner of Bedford St and Station St in Newtown.

There is so much love and hope. Everyday I wake up feeling a sense of wellbeing in our community. In this episode I am going to talk about the nourishment in the mind and our wellbeing.

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I wondered, can our wellbeing and economy grow hand-in-hand together? What I have learnt in the past 5 years, the answer is yes. Prioritise our wellbeing, everything else will follow. I believe wellbeing should be the most prioritised aspect in every entrepreneur.

First of all, what is wellbeing? According to Better Health Channel:

Wellbeing is not just the absence of disease or illness. It is a complex combination of a person's physical, mental, emotional and social health factors. It is strongly linked to happiness and life satisfaction. 

The reason why I had a question about wellbeing versus economy was because whenever I worked too hard, I always got sick. Then I would go against my body and keep working, and I got even more sick. It’s a vicious cycle!  

Since I was little I’ve struggled a lot with breathing issues and skin rashes.

I never rested. never went to bed before 2 am. I would be working, reading or learning a new skill till late - late as early in the morning. Then start working again at 9am.  

After 10 years of working, my heart palpitations and difficulty in breathing was getting worse. In my last full-time job, which only lasted for 2 months, I constantly had headache and insomnia.

That was the turning point 5 years ago. I quit my job. Anett moved in, forced me to sleep early. I read my books in the morning instead of late at night. Went out for a walk everyday. Caught up with friends during the week. Started a daily meditation after we came back from Bali. I originally planned to take 2 months off work, but ended up taking almost a full year off!

HERE’S THE WISDOM FOR YOU:

Sleep and sleep well. Allow ourselves to rest. I like this advice from a person who lives in the bush. He said if you were bitten by a snake, rest for 3 days and you will recover without any drugs. I wouldn’t follow this advice if I was bitten by a snake, but I like the fact how resilient our body is. It’s a being that could heal itself if we are in the right balance.

Sleeping and resting brings us back to this balance. It allows our bodies to rest, repair and process the information we receive during the day.

I maintain a 7 to 8 hours sleep every night as research suggested. But I also listen to my body. When I am lack of sleep, it’s not only that I feel tired, but also it manifests in heat palpitation, mood swing and short of breath. I take all these symptoms as the indicators to tell me when I should go for a rest.

Difficulty in falling asleep troubled me sometimes when work gets complicated. Meditation and deep breathing helps me a lot calming the mind. Even after rounds of meditation I am still awake, I just lie down very still. Keep breathing from the diaphragm and telling myself, everything is fine. Everything can wait. I’ve already done my best. All the problems will be solved tomorrow, if not, the day after tomorrow or in the near future.

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Had I found my state of wellbeing? That was just the beginning. What was yet to come was so many emotional ups and downs and facing the deepest wounds in the story I’ve created for myself. 

I knew I worked hard for a much deeper emotional reason. 

Ever since I quit accounting to study graphic design, I realised being artistic and creative is my way to feel alive. That was something I could finally immerse into and hold onto. It gave me the purpose to live. Nothing else gave me such fulfillment. Therefore, work became my best buddy and I was addicted to it.

Soon after I quit my job, I found another ‘job’. I made tiny sculptures with fruit and vegetables, took photos and shared it on Instagram. I did it every day for a year and a half. I was thinking about what to make day and night. My mind wasn’t rested. It was just zoning from one space to another.

Because it was so idea-driven, I drifted into a world that only me existed. It was a conversation with myself. It had no judgement. It was purely about creativity. It’s an experiment on how can the mind come up with the most unexpected things with just a fruit or vegetable.

This new addition also brought me viral success on the internet. It fulfilled my dream to be recognised as a talented designer.

All my dreams came true - being able to do my own things and be recognised by the world. But it surfaced the deepest loneliness in me. Despite so much love, praise and opportunities, I still felt unloved and alone. I was living in the shadow of the past. But I chose to chase the shadow and allow it to be part of the present life.

A few days ago I sent one of these images to Elizaveta who’s organising a virtual panel discussion called ‘Nourish’, which I will participate in at the end of this month. The image was a heart made from a strawberry. Elizaveta told me it looked beautiful but also felt sad. 

Why does it look sad to you? I asked. I was surprised Elizaveta sensed the sadness. I was very much moved. It almost felt like a long lost voice was being heard again. Yes, everything I made during that period carried such vast sadness and loneliness in me that can hardly be uttered through words.

Now I look back, I just feel grateful to be able to allow myself to acknowledge those emotions. But also quite importantly, it allowed me to transcend these emotions into something that was much more symbolic and meaningful - and in return, I was nourished during the process.

HERE’S THE WISDOM FOR YOU:

Acknowledge your feelings and emotions. 

This doesn’t mean that you find your partner or friends to complain or dump all your negative emotions to them.

Of course, you can talk, and you should if you feel you need someone to listen. But when you talk about these feelings, you also need to be objective. See all these feelings and emotions as an outsider. Describe them. Don’t attack or judge. And, be mindful of your listener’s feelings too. Be appreciative for the love and support from that person.

But the most important is to let these feelings and emotions be heard by yourself. It’s about honouring them in you. You need to hear them and understand them. I find the best way to honour these feelings is writing them down. Keep a reflection journal. If you are a visually creative person, it’s the best opportunity to express them through your creative outlet.

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For a lot of us it might be easy to talk about the feelings and emotions on the surface, but it takes courage to acknowledge where these feelings and emotions come from. For me, I was more forced to do so.

I always had mood swings. When we met, Anett thought I had bipolar. Even I was convinced. I assumed that the mental disorder might be in my family.

So when an unusual event was triggered, I fell into a much bigger, deeper and darker hole in life.

My opposite door neighbour committed suicide at home. A week later, we heard the chef from our favourite restaurant downstairs also ended his life.

For a month I’d cried everyday. I didn’t know either of these guys closely, but I was so heart broken. A sense of loss and pain was gripping my heart. I felt I was haunted by the darkest depression. I saw dark energy floating around in my neighbourhood in my dreams. I felt scared and helpless, but I wasn’t able to talk about it. It was too deep, too far and too painful to talk about it. 

One day I decided to see a reiki healer. I had seen a reiki healer once and thought I should try it again. I Googled a reiki healer and Samantha Avery appeared in my search result. I called her.

I didn’t know this call was going to change my life, forever.

My first healing session. As Samantha practiced reiki healing on me, I saw many bats flying out from me. My chest was bumping up and down. I had to cry my heart out. It was the most emotionally intense experience I’ve ever had in my life.

At the end, Samantha told me, my heart was very heavy. There were people in my heart that I had to cut the cord with. I wasn’t only sad about my neighbour, I was still grieving for the losses in the past.

To move forward, I needed to understand what’s in those losses that I miss. I needed to understand all those things were already in me, and I had to find them back.

That was my step 3 towards achieving wellbeing - to face the losses with love and respect, to let go, and to acknowledge all the losses that were once given by other people, were in fact already in me.

HERE’S THE WISDOM FOR YOU:

Reiki is not for everyone and I respect if this is not something you would be open to try.

But there was so much wisdom I’ve learnt from Samantha. Listen to our body on a deeper level. It tells us what needs to be done in the mind. Let our mind nourish our body.

There are 7 chakras in our body and each of them is associated with our organs. In my own experience, my throat and heart chakras are the two areas that I need to pay extra attention to.

The throat chakra is associated with voicing our expressions and being creative. It is responsible for expressing the truth and sharing our opinions. When I feel stressed, or not being able to express creatively, I often feel congested in the throat. When it’s more intense, or when I am sick, it could generate so much mucus that gives me trouble breathing.

To heal my throat chakra, I go back to my journal and write down my thoughts and emotions, problems I encounter and all the options for solutions. This is also one of the reasons I decided to do this podcast. 

The blockage in my heart chakra manifests itself in tight chest and upper back. The upper back is the past. Other than Samantha’s healing, the only way I find to nourish our heart chakra is by giving ourselves and others lots of love. Honour our hard work and achievements. Be grateful for the presence. Be generous to others. Just simply having an open mind as it opens up our heart too. 

It’s as simple as feeling the alignment in ourselves, it makes us feel happy, hopeful and supported. We nourish ourselves with this vibrant energy. It strengthens our immune system and produces happy cells in our body. 

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Another important thing I’ve learnt in my wellbeing journey is the importance of feeling supported. It’s an understanding that there is an abundance of supports already in ourselves, our community and nature - no matter who we are, what we do or where we are. We are all supported and connected.

My parents sent me to Australia to study finance and accounting, I ended up withdrawing from the course to study graphic design. My parents paid for my design course. They didn’t know what graphic design was, and they still don’t know what exactly I am doing. But that was their support. 

But at the time, I never felt I was supported because in my mind, I thought my parents didn’t understand me. As an overseas student and immigrant, I knew I had to work a lot harder than anyone else so I don’t let my parents down.

I told myself no matter what happened, I always had myself. But the reality was that this ‘myself’ was not fully reliable, because when I was out of balance, I couldn’t feel supported and I became resentful and negative. Because I only had myself, I never felt safe anywhere.

But my perception of support has completely changed after all these years learning from Samantha, spiritual healers such as Deepak Chopra, Davidji and Abraham Hicks. I now understand there is a much bigger world than myself - and it will always support me no matter what. I no longer need to rely on my little self to support myself.

Whenever I have doubt, I do a reality check. I am standing firmly on the ground. I am supported by Mother Earth. I am lying down in bed. I am supported by the bed that’s made by someone. I travel on the train. We have the whole city infrastructure to support our daily life. 

I look at my 6 metre tall papaya tree, grown from my compost, I know that nature is supporting us with air, water, soil and its eternal abundance. Who says we don’t have support?

HERE’S THE WISDOM FOR YOU:

How do we feel supported?

Practice gratitude - be grateful for the air, the water, the electricity, a fruit, a stranger’s smile, your parents, your partner and your friends. Always, no matter what, choose to look at the good sides of things. Let the gratitude fill our heart.

Also, supporting others. I believe love and support is not one directional. Whenever we give, we are also sharing and generating positive energy that will not only help others, but the people and environment around them. When we give, it also makes our heart fuller, happier and more open.

One thing that I always remind myself of. As we take from nature, for its air, water and soil, we also need to give back. Only when our Mother Earth is well, we can achieve wellbeing together.

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But the most important step I’ve done to achieve my wellbeing, is the release of the blockage with my parents. Deep down I knew this was the biggest blockage I needed to release in order to move forward, but I was never able to face it.

I love my parents with my whole heart, but I couldn’t get myself to forgive my mother for using me as her emotional dumping ground, and all the fights between her and my father. I often woke up by their fights almost every night from the age of 2 till 18 - it explains why I found it hard to sleep early at night.

Samantha advised me to write a letter to my mother. Tell her all my feelings. I couldn’t get myself to do it, but I did some meditation on forgiveness for parents for a few months. I imagined myself, going back to the past. Told my parents that I loved them and I understood it wasn’t their intention to hurt anyone, because they were both beautiful, caring parents and human beings.

It has also given me so much empathy and forgiveness for others. Especially in some circumstances, rather than feeling attacked or judged, I choose to listen, to understand that every action comes from a person’s perception of his reality, and this person’s essence is only pure and full of good intentions.

Most importantly, it applies to the understanding of myself as well. Forgiving ourselves and others, especially our parents, frees us from the restricted story we’ve been telling ourselves and allows us to travel a lot further than we could imagine.

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These days we have all sorts of tools, diets and exercises we can use to improve our wellbeing. But I believe our mind is the most important aspect of our wellbeing. When the internal is well and aligned, our physical health and the external environment will improve. We will naturally want to eat well, have good health and live in a positive environment.

My final wisdom. Wellbeing is a lifelong project. Even if we feel so well balanced today, we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow that will change our perspective. And that perspective, even just a slightly different way of thinking, could impact our life and health in a completely different way.  

Also, prioritise this wellbeing project beyond everything else. I asked myself whether I would have spent these past 5 years differently - I could have worked so hard and ignored my health and pursued a greater career success. I wouldn’t give up everything in these 5 years for anything else.

For what I have learnt from all these years, I know I am going to sail a lot further, steadier and happier with grace, gratitude and support from my family and friends, my community and the world.

I thank Anett for being the solid rock in my life and never giving up on me when I was at my lowest point. For her I’ve become a better partner and the person I’ve always wanted to be.

Thank you for listening! I hope you find a lot of useful things from this episode. I would like to hear from you about your journey of wellbeing too. There is so much to learn. I will be back in two weeks with a new episode. Thank you, stay healthy and I wish you well.