Tis’ quarantine season and I decided to put together a Quarantine Starter Pack. Since we’re all hunkered down in our homes it seems many people are trying things they haven’t had time for previously, finding new ways to take care of themselves, or discovering what really matters to them. Like it or not, life is shaking things up; COVID is a harbinger of new mentality, a paradigm shift, in the collective. I put together my own quarantine starter pack, practices I am doing that work for the quarantined lifestyle.
Indefinitely cooped up in the house, I’ve been reading more books. Lately, I’ve been getting down with some James Joyce but Chomsky and the Dalai Lama also make an appearance in my repertoire. Read my badass book reviews here.
2. Three Day Water Fast
There are many health benefits to a water fast, which I won’t get into because there’s already a bunch of information on the topic available. For a few years now, I’ve had it that I want to do this but when I first attempted it, I broke on Day Two. I was on way to meet a friend after work and had brought a chocolate chip cookie for her. Rush hour traffic outside Hartford had the minutes ticking slowly by as the cookie lay forlorn in the passenger seat. I gave it the side eye. It stared back at me. Five seconds later, it hopped onto my palm and into my mouth. Suicidal cookie, I’m telling you. Since then, however, I completed a fast in March and April of this year and have committed to fasting the first three days of each month with Jim. Why do this? The biggest incentive for me is waking myself up. Modern life is so convenient – temperature controlled, food at the touch of a button, entertainment on demand, and motorized transport – that if I don’t purposefully challenge myself, I might just devolve into a blob. The greatest benefit I’ve seen so far is my attitude towards food has changed. I’m so grateful for food and immensely appreciative of flavor and the sensation of eating. Without it, life feels a bit monochromatic. A quarantine is the perfect time to try fasting. Highly recommend giving it a go, even just to see what it’s like. Explore the many experiences life has to offer.
3. Whole Food/Plant Based
Ever since watching Kip Anderson’s documentary, What the Health, on Netflix at the end of February, Jim and I’ve cut all animal-based products from our diets. Upon this decision, I hopped online and researched recipes, compiling a grocery list of common pantry items for a plant-based eater, see picture. Come to find, there’s a lot of overlap with my old list except that some new items like coconut milk and nutritional yeast are stepping into regular rotation and others like milk and butter are subbing out. Then, I started cooking like a maniac. One of the first things I made was some queso dip out of eggplant, the taste/texture of which was such that I made it again with different spices as a great creamy base for a casserole when we had an abundance of green beans. It is this creativity and resourcefulness that makes experimenting with raw/vegan recipes so fun. If taste and texture are accounted for, your brain can’t tell that it’s plant-based and your body runs a lot better. Some of my favorite bloggers are Minimalist Baker, Connoisseurus Veg, Vegan 8 Korean and Ali Kamenova. Try this taco meat and these brownies, and discover a whole new world of food out there!
First, I want to share that I actually know someone who still uses Pandora instead of Spotify. I know. Anyway, what I love best about Spotify is the Discover Weekly playlist they offer. Their algorithm is awesome and creates a suggested playlist of the most perfectly weird music that I like, curated weekly. These days, my taste has softened into ambient, chill-pop, synthy, and atmospheric – it suits my slow lifestyle.
From personal experience, do the following if you want better sex. Instead of sex as a means to orgasm, try not to orgasm and instead, slow it down, way down, and focus on the moment, on sharing intimacy with nowhere to be and no end to accomplish other than just being together. This is the Karezza method, a term coined at the turn of the 20th century by radical feminist doctor, Alice Stockham, but practiced for many years by diverse groups of people for various reasons. In modern times, Marnia Robinson champions this as a way to build harmony and keep passion alive in long term monogamous relationships, see her 2009 book, Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow. Robinson put together this PDF with 31 exercises you can do with your partner that she calls “bonding behaviors”. Try one every day! Find out more at her website, reuniting.info. The Oneida community used this method as an effective form of birth control and noted its positive effects within relationships. Ancient traditions of Taoism and Tantra practice this method for spiritual growth and modern Taoist teacher, Mantak Chia, has quite a few books out on the subject if you’re interested.
6. Mike Chang’s Flow Training
What can I say about this training other than it’s such valuable information that I can’t believe it’s freely available on YouTube. Stream it here. “Good feelings in your body means good thoughts in your mind”, says Chang. This hour-long workout starts off with strength training, followed by stretching, breath work, and meditation. The workout is unique in that it’s all about relaxing the body – tensing just the muscles you need and relaxing everything else. The intention is that by getting my body to a very relaxed state, I am familiarizing myself with this calm way of being and the more familiar it is, the more it becomes my nature. And, it works! This exercise is so effective that I’ve done it almost every day since Jim introduced it to me and I wrote a blog post about it. Read that here. Definitely give this a go! This is an incredible workout that you can do at home with just a yoga mat. Perfect for a quarantine!
If Mike Chang’s Flow training helps my body relax, meditation helps my mind to relax. Combat COVID 19 anxiety and fear with some mindwork. There are many styles of meditation, so find one that works for you. My first real taste of meditation was back in September at a 10-day Vipassana retreat where I spent 100+ hours in silent meditation, observing thoughts and sensations. Read about that experience here. More recently, I took a class on mindfulness where we practiced guided meditations. Read my post about the mindfulness class here. Since then, I’ve been practicing guided meditations more frequently than silent. Some recordings come from my mindfulness class, others from meditation heavyweights like Tara Brach, as well as YouTuber, Michael Sealey, who specializes in hypnotherapy for self-work, like this one for clearing subconscious negativity, and also for lucid dreaming. These days, there’s a plethora of resources available for meditation and what better time than now to integrate a new practice to keep your body and mind healthy! I hear great things about the Headspace app and there’s also Coursera’s free class, The Science of Well-Being to bring more mindfulness into your daily life.
Video conferencing done right. With quarantine in full effect, everyone is hopping on the Zoom! A personal development company, Landmark Worldwide, has been hosting group calls for alumni of their programs and these calls have gone up to 3600 people! To witness and participate in such a large virtual gathering that has people from Asia, Europe, Americas, and more all together in the same place makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. The folks at the Vipassana center (www.dhara.dhamma.org) have also set up a Zoom room for old students to gather every 7am and 6pm EST to meditate together. Again, Zoom is allowing us to reach across physical boundaries to connect no matter what. It’s a beautiful thing.
So that’s my Quarantine Starter Pack. The 8 tools and activities that represent my time not just during this lockdown, but also my normal living as well. They just happen to be great practices I can bring with me anywhere that keep me strong and light, limber. Keep it minimal and live my values. That’s all one ever needs to do.
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