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Letters from Zeynep: A Growing Appreciation For The Human Mind

Dear friends, Here in Paris, we are slowly moving through a deconfinement. In the next 24 hours, my f

Letters from Zeynep

May 26 · Issue #21 · View online
Weekly letters that nurture you to find everyday wellness.

Dear friends,
Here in Paris, we are slowly moving through a deconfinement. In the next 24 hours, my feet might touch the grass and I am restless with the anticipation of that.
I wrote the below piece more than two weeks ago, when we were in the last days of our pretty strict two month confinement. Hope it will make you smile. 😊
I also have for you this week: a talk and meditation on compassion, an invitation to Mudita and other small gifts. Wherever you are, don’t forget to go a little crazy.
With giggles,

A Growing Appreciation For The Human Mind
A friend told me once, many years ago, that when she and her then boyfriend used to live in a tiny apartment, she’d sometimes close the bathroom door, sit on the toilet and read a book. 
I must have held on to this memory because it seemed funny to me then (it still does) and also surprising. I remember wondering what it must be like to live with someone for years, in a rather small space, and not have enough personal space, so much so that you go to the toilet for time alone. 
This memory of my friend in the toilet with a book resurfaced recently when my partner started joking that I was “disappearing into the toilet”. I can’t say that I willingly decided one day to go to the toilet to spend time alone, like my creative and inspiring friend. I think it was a gradual process for me - I just started spending more and more time there. 
My partner finds a TON of joy in this.
He fake-looks for me in our 40 m2 apartment (Oh my, where has my love gone? Haven’t seen her in a while… Did she leave???) and teases me with a “I missed you when I “finally” emerge. 
I must say I felt like I reached a new milestone in the living-with-your-partner journey when I connected my increasing time at the toilet to my friend’s (who’s still happily married by the way). And it dawned on me that IF (a big if) I was willingly going to the toilet to spend some time alone, that wouldn’t be so bizarre in the midst of a global pandemic, after months of lockdown. 
But more importantly, what I realized today, as I was contemplating if I could write about toilets in a newsletter, is this: 
If I was disappearing into the toilet, that wouldn’t be so bizarre either. 
The toilet, for all we know, could have magical properties like the Floo network in Harry Potter. It could shrink me into a fish and allow me to travel through the intricate and ancient sewage systems of Paris. I could hop back into my human body to take a stroll through the Catacombs, I could come across one of those crazy drug parties young Parisians are supposedly having in drainage holes these days (with a lot of drugs). I could then hop back into my fish body and swim across the Seine, or turn into a bird (seagull, perhaps) and fly away in the big blue sky. 
Would I fly all the way to Istanbul?
Would I fly all the way to Istanbul?
Who knows - I could even run into Nemo or Ariel along the way. 
No, none of this would be bizarre. 
Magical, yes, certainly. A product of my imagination, yes, for sure. 
But not bizarre. 
And this is the beauty of the human mind, isn’t it?
What is a magical toilet compared to the many grand scenarios created by the human mind? Written, directed, acted by the same set of pathways? Loving loves never loved, ending stories that never started, solving problems that never existed? The profound philosophies of a meaningful life, the great debates about what is right, the best Disney movies all there at once within the boundless confines of your mind. 
I don’t know where you are on this (de)confinement journey, dear friend. If you’re anywhere close to me, you’re having some sleepless nights, some restless thoughts about the future, and some moments of normalcy when the day ahead cunningly seems like it will be just another day. 
I wonder if in the midst of your ups and downs, you’re also embarking on many wonderful journeys in your own mind, some to joy and some to sorrow, and some maybe even to magical toilets.
Don’t forget to go a little crazy and to enjoy the journey - the boundlessness of the human mind can be our salvation. 
A mindfulness lesson from Ariel: If you are Under the Sea, that might not be so bad :)
This is the 30 second pep talk a friend gives himself when he's struggling: just keep swimming! :)
Reflection Questions
  1. Are you spending an increased amount of time in the toilet? (Just kidding! 😘)
  2. Did your mind take a “magical but not bizarre” journey recently? Where did you go? How did you enjoy it?
  3. Do you make time to daydream? What are some places and moments in which daydreaming becomes more available to you?
What Is Compassion?
If you’d like to explore compassion, listen to this talk I originally gave at a Mudita Mindfulness Community meeting earlier this year. It will begin with stories of compassion, define compassion, highlight the science behind it, and end with a 20 minute compassion meditation. You’ll be invited to notice your suffering or the suffering of others, and give a caring response.
We learn the compassionate response to pain with repeated practice, over time. Feel free to return to this practice to awaken this natural caring of your heart and make it more accessible at times of need.
If you would like to skip the talk and do the guided meditation, you can do so in the second video below.
Don’t forget to subscribe to my channel to receive notifications of new videos!
Compassion For Yourself & Others - Talk & Meditation
Compassion For Yourself & Others - Meditation
Insight Timer - Compassion For Yourself and Others
In Celebration of Community 🎉
A year ago, I was finishing my first 7 Week Introduction to Mindfulness course in Paris, and 3 of my students were saddened that we weren’t going to be meeting every week anymore. This became my excuse to start a mindfulness community, which I had been wanting to do. Our community, Mudita, is turning 1 year old this week! 🎉
In this past year, Mudita has become a multicultural, intimate, safe haven. Members (and I) delight in how we are able to witness each other’s explorations, suffering and growth with non-judgment and care. I bask in the richness of our insights and experiences – -we counted more languages spoken than the number of people in a recent meeting, including Urdu, Belarusian and Hungarian. During COVID, we’ve been welcoming guests and teachers internationally as well, and I hope our care will continue to extend to others around the globe.
If you’d like to celebrate our first year with us, listen to a short talk on The Place of Community and Generosity and meditate, join us on Zoom this Wednesday (tomorrow) at 19:30 Paris time. RSVP here!
Small Gifts 🎁
  • I sleep 8-9 hours every night and I deeply enjoyed this 3 part series on sleep in the New Yorker covering sleepless nights, the purpose of sleep and wakefulness.
  • This poem by Jess Jackson was read to us by my dear friend and fellow mindfulness teacher Jennifer Krag, and it landed like a kiss on my heart.
  • In my last letter, I had said that if there’s one book to read during the pandemic, it’s The Man’s Search of Meaning. Well, I now have a second book for you! I just finished Khalil Gibran’s Prophet. I am saddened to have met his genius so late, and I am overflowing with joy for the beauty of this book. I can promise that it will lift your spirits up and calm your heart. I will keep it on my bedside table – at least for a while.
Thank You ❤️
Thank you for reading! As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with your comments or questions, share how you are doing during this difficult time, or share what has been lifting your spirits.
With love and care,
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