Moments in life

What makes a life?

For me, life is made of moments.

If I look at my life, I see moments, like a string of pearls gleaming in the light. Memorable moments – not just big events like weddings, births, travels or transitions, but also small moments in my day-to-day life, when I really felt, ‘This is life.’

I remember lying on our family bed as my husband and baby slept next to me. I remember doing the laundry while caring for my baby. I remember going to the library with my two sons. I remember being a child myself, playing at childcare and at school. I remember being a grad student, eating lunch on the lawn with friends. I remember my rides to school when my father taught me to know the trees. I remember the times in parks, by the lake, under the trees. I remember looking at the sunlight through my window, watching the dust dance in the light. I remember the warmth of my husband’s embrace. I remember smiles and laughter. I remember playing cards as a family of four, as well as with my aunts, uncles and cousins. I remember sitting on my bed writing, typing on my favorite wooden table…

Which moments come alive for you?

I feel blessed with a good life. It amazes me that the moments that come to life for me are beautiful for their utter simplicity. Nothing fancy. Nothing from my CV. I am most alive in those times and spaces when I allow myself time to simply be, to savor my life. Family, nature, and solitude help me feel most alive, most at home with my self. What helps you?

What about work? So much of our lives is dedicated to work and ‘getting things done’. Work provides a living and a sense of satisfaction. Is it possible to savor life at work in the same way? I love teaching, seeing patients. I love taking part in building learning environments, running workshops, reading, writing. I am doing what I love. Yet it still feels rushed, complicated, hectic. Full of ‘to do lists’ and targets. I am not ‘fully alive’ to the same extent. Are you?

I feel an aspiration towards greater wholeness. I feel a growing sense of mindfulness. I aim to make work ‘work’ for me. I feel hope and anticipation. I believe this is within reach. I can feel alive throughout my life. I can savor each moment every step of the way. To feel a deep sense of meaning in relating with my students, my patients, my colleagues, the people at work. To treasure the simplicity of life.

Yes, things are sometimes messy and complicated in life, at home as well as at work. We are sometimes in a hurry and things do not always go as planned. Yet there is a deep running simplicity in the very fiber of life, in every in-breath and out-breath. I feel a coming together of doing and being. I am learning to be what I do and do who I am. I am learning to make my work come alive.

I feel a resurrection. A transcendent dimension to my life, to my work. There is something greater at work, in play. There is this strong undercurrent, a force of life breaking through all the dead wood, the parts that are simply there without fully existing.

Life is a string of pearls. I am diving for new ones every single day. I want to want to work, to look forward to doing the things I do, to not take things for granted. I am resurrecting myself from being burried alive under my own workload to owning my work, my life. Living it. I am diving into my work with gusto. This is who I am. I am a wife, mother, psychiatrist, lecturer, educator. I am who I am, who I am meant to be. Fully me. Every moment, every step of the way.

This is life.

Noticing ourselves

So what might ‘diving into your soul’ look like?

Well, let’s make it simple.

Have you ever kept a diary? What do you write in it? I have kept a diary since my parents gave me one as a birthday gift when I was five. Before that, they kept a diary for me. Nowadays people have blogs, vlogs, facebook posts or instastories, and all the sort. Whatever format you use, the concept is the same. We record our experiences, and we might say something about how we think and feel.

That is really where it starts. It is about noticing what we experience inside us.

My diary entry might read, ‘I feel cranky… it turns out that I am hungry.’ – as simple as that, but it could mean a lot. If I didn’t recognize my feelings, I might curse another driver or snap at my kids or send a curt email and suffer from potential consequences. This happens to us all the time. When we don’t notice our inner world, we are at the mercy of our situation. By owning our thoughts and feelings, we develop the capacity to observe what is going on in us before choosing our responses.

After acknowledging what is going on in us, we can start noticing things that affect us – like our bodies. Our physical and mental health are inseparable. That is why hunger can make us cranky. That is why people eat, smoke, drink, take drugs, or do other things to their bodies ‘to cheer themselves up’.

Once we notice and understand what is happening within us, we can do something about it.

So I’ll start with myself. I am going to take action accordingly. It’s time for a healthy meal.

What about you? How do you feel, where does it come from, and what are you going to do about it?

A journey into one’s self

My husband and sons love diving. Do you like diving? Living in Indonesia, we are in the heart of a haven for divers. There are incredible corals, fish, and various sea life in our doorstep. While I often come along with them on some of their underwater adventures, my favorite dives are into the self, into the soul.

Perhaps this is why I became a psychiatrist – it is my quest to understand what being human is about, to guide others in their explorations. What can be deeper than the depth of the soul? What can be wider than the breadth of one’s life? It is absolutely amazing to see life within us and beyond us.

Having a guide is definitely helpful and sometimes necessary in unfamiliar terrain, but at the very least, you need a trusted buddy. You don’t  need a psychiatrist to go on your own personal exploration, as long as you know that you have someone who has your back – healthy relationships that are life-giving. The magic in soul-searching is that a pen and paper can be just as good as a listening ear – to embrace whatever comes when you pour your heart out. What you do need to know is what to do, so you can stay safe, discover yourself and get the most out of the experience.

Exploring the depths can be scary. It took me a long time to finally get my diver’s license because it is frightening to lose the ground beneath my feet and the air that flows through my nose. Diving into one’s self can be just as frightening, if not more, especially if you are used to holding tight control over yourself. The surface of the water is like the surface of your consciousness, and it can be unnerving to put your head in. You might fear becoming lunch for sharks. But most of the time, as when people dive in the ocean or other waters, you immerse yourself in an amazing world you never realize existed, you find  peace and calm that you never thought were possible, you discover yourself, and you are thoroughly changed. You might actually have fun with the sharks, as my husband does. The sad truth is, more sharks end up as fin soup than they could ever hurt us.

Actually, I learned the art of diving into the soul far before I became a psychiatrist. It is this love that brought me to the work I do today. For scuba diving, we have different groups, like PADI, SSI, CMAS, etc. who teach people how to dive and give licenses. I learned how to “dive into my self” from Personnalité et Relations Humaines (personality and human relations). The method is called “PRH analysis”. If it sounds technical, that is the difference between going to a dive center and going underwater. It is good to know, but at the end of the day, the real beauty is within.

This blog is not about the technicalities. It is just my sharing of my own journey, my own explorations. If you enjoy it, that would be wonderful. If it inspires you on your own journey, even better. I would love to hear of your travels too.

We are all fellow travelers in this universe. We are free to explore this blue planet with all its waters that give us life.  We are free to explore our humanness, too. Perhaps if we can better understand ourselves and our planet, it will help us grow and build humanity, to take better care of ourselves and this beautiful earth we call home.

Let’s dive.