Tag Archives: Stop

Charting a Course For Renewal

Sukham Blog – A monthly column focused on health and wellbeing.

As 2020 drew to a merciful close, our editor sent me a note suggesting we begin the new year with a focus on renewal and the environment around us. I filed that thought away as I began a break from my normal routine for a few days, but it kept nibbling away at a corner of my subconscious.  Having lived through a crazy, head-spinning, and gut-wrenching year, we were all ready for a reprieve in 2021; aching for relief and deliverance from all that we had endured. We fervently wished and prayed for change, for that time of renewal and return to normalcy. Instead, we were visited by the horrendous events of January 6th and their aftermath. Like so many others, my world stopped spinning for a few days as I watched in horror – and then re-played in slow motion – the brutal assault on our democracy and our very way of life. All the while, news about the pandemic did not get any better either. Did we not turn the page on our calendars? Had we flashed back into the dark abyss? 

It took me two more weeks, but I’ve finally begun to breathe again in the past few days. My usual, optimistic self is peering out cautiously from that dark recess. Now it’s time, I tell myself.  Now it’s time for renewal, time for change, time to emerge from one of the darkest periods in our lifetimes, dare to hope, and strive for a return to normalcy.

Oh, normal sounds so good now!

Renewal is associated with a Stop,” writes Bob Dunham, “Stopping is not just Pausing. Stopping is open to choose a new path, not just resuming the old one. With Stopping, we don’t just pause and rest to resume the game. In Stopping, we reflect and choose whether the old game is worth returning to, whether there is a new and different game to play – perhaps a game that is healthier, more meaningful, valuable, and loving.” 

I think that’s the perfect mindset for us as we make our way out of the tunnel we’ve been in for so many months, and into that sunshine that awaits us. Let’s not kid ourselves, a steep hill still lies ahead of us, and it will require grit, determination, and collective will to help each other to the top of the ridge and descend towards our new normal – whatever that may be.  However, we can get there if we choose. Of that, I am now convinced.

I associate renewal with the cycles of nature.  There is a rhythm to the cyclic process of creation – the birth, nourishment, and growth of plants and other living species. Let’s take a leaf from Mother Nature’s playbook. Barb Schmidt, a teacher of spiritual practices and author of The Practice, points to Springtime as a metaphor for our lives. We can focus our attention on living in the world and “feel rejuvenated and motivated to make our lives and the world a more beautiful place,” she urges. We need to see “the beauty that is already present in each moment by bringing our attention right where we are: right where we need to be—right here in the now.” We need to train ourselves to build this awareness that gives us access to that inner light, pursue our purpose, find meaning, and thrive. Looking inwards to nurture our inner world will help us blossom in the world outside. And along the way, we can plant a few flowers and trees for the others around us to cherish.

Let’s heed Barb Schmidt’s advice.  Let’s resolve to conquer the hill that remains before us, and in doing so make this our time of renewal! 

How do we lift the weight of the past year off our shoulders, build this inner awareness, find that inner light and begin afresh to pursue our purpose? First, stay away from resolutions. Around 40% of people in the US make resolutions when seeking a fresh start, as at the beginning of a new year. Resolutions create expectations, and can very soon become burdens. Instead, focus on specific outcomes. Pick out a purpose that you care about, that is meaningful and important to you. Whenever you are able to do so, take small concrete steps to achieve that purpose, without focusing on the time it might take to reach that goal. As long as you stay connected to your purpose, you will get there.

Tailor your expectations and demands on yourself. We have all been through a period of tremendous stress that is not going away just because we started a new year.  Reduce the pressure on yourself by focusing on and prioritizing self-compassion. The uncertainty that has plagued us over the past year is not going away soon. We’ve all come to expect some level of predictability in our day-to-day lives, without which we find it challenging to make plans. This makes it extremely difficult to set and achieve goals for ourselves. The way around this dilemma is to set smaller, shorter-term goals. 

Achieving one such goal before setting the next one assures a higher chance of success; it’s a way to deal with uncertainty that helps to build confidence, morale, and a sense of accomplishment. These small wins “add up over time” and keep you motivated, says Natalie Dattilo, a clinical health psychologist with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.  They help set yourself up for success.  Another key is practicing gratitude; which Ms. Dattilo believes, has the power to bring about positive changes in us. And along the way, do not forget to make the time to do something – however small – that will brighten the day for another – be that a parent, child, sibling, neighbor, friend, colleague or stranger. Bringing light into another’s day will brighten your own.

Find purpose, set micro-goals, practice self-compassion, self-care, and gratitude. Reward yourself and help another.  Dr. Susan McDaniel defines renewal as the state of being made new, fresh, or strong again—to restore, replenish, revive, re-establish, recover.  An appropriate definition in our current context! 

Chart a course for your own renewal, one that is healthier, more meaningful, valuable, and loving.

Mukund Acharya is a co-founder of Sukham, an all-volunteer non-profit organization in the Bay Area established to advocate for healthy aging within the South Asian community. He is also a columnist for India Currents. 

With sincere thanks to Ms. Poonam Singh for the use of her beautiful photograph.

Measure C – A City’s Shield to Protect its Lands: Will the Voters Let it Down?

Last week, San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo and his team spoke to the ethnic media about Measure C that is on the ballot for San Jose voters on June 5, 2018. They were flanked by a chain of people holding placards reading “Yes for C” and “No for B”. Gently, the mayor explained in English—followed by his fellow council members in Spanish and Vietnamese—why Measure B is for “Builders” and C for “Community,” and why it was imperative to defeat the former and pass the latter. In other words, NO on Measure B and YES on Measure C.

But first what are these measures that reportedly have both the local Democrats and Republicans united and a host of organizations, including environmental and veterans groups, joining hands with the city council, while pitting them against “billionaire” developers.

Measure B, or the Evergreen Senior Housing Initiative is an attempt to open up currently undeveloped “employment” land to senior housing projects, launched by real estate developers Carl Berg and Chop Keenan. Measure C is a complimentary measure proposed by Mayor Sam Liccardo and approved by the city council to counter Measure B and restrict residential development in those areas.

The area in contention is 200 acres of undeveloped land in the Evergreen hills at the city’s eastern edge.

Opponents of Measure B claim that almost everything is wrong and disingenuous about the seemingly benevolent project aimed to help senior citizens, starting with its deceptive name. On paper, it proposes the development of 910 residential units in the Evergreen Campus Industrial Area off of Aborn road. Yet, there is more to it than meets the eye. It casts a much wider net by placing a senior housing overlay over all underutilized employment lands in San Jose. In simple terms, it means that all the land currently reserved for job creation can be used for housing development.

Additionally, it exempts the developers from paying standard fees for the impact of increased vehicular traffic. By bringing in the proposal as a citizens’ initiative, the builders are bypassing the city’s environmental, affordable housing, traffic impact and services fee regulations that they would need to adhere to otherwise.

Measure C, aims to counter that and enforces these regulations on the land development projects proposed in the outlying areas.

But isn’t the city facing a housing crisis, and the proposed housing development for seniors and veterans would actually be a good thing? That is another myth that the mayor and the Council aim to bust. The proposed development does little to address affordable housing, or to ensure that even a single veteran would stay in the units. In fact it reduces the requirement of affordable units for families earning less than $100,000 a year to six percent from the currently required twenty percent.

The Council agrees that part of the land would eventually be developed in some form. But the development ought to be according to the city’s plan, prepared with community leaders and keeping the community’s needs in mind. Unfortunately for the developers, building another conclave of luxury houses in the foothills is not part of that. It will stretch already strained city resources, taking them away from the existing areas to an outlying new development, create traffic gridlocks and sprawl, and destroy the environment of San Jose’s Coyote valley.

Megan Medeiros, the Executive Director of the Committee for Green Foothills, was one of the placard-holding activists during the briefing. She and her team have been actively fighting and campaigning for Measure C, hosting precinct walks to go door-to-door, and urging likely voters to vote “No” to urban sprawl and wildlife habitat destruction. “The builders literally conned the unsuspecting citizens in malls and public places to get the signatures needed to put the Measure on the ballot, thus gaining a backdoor entry bypassing the city regulations” said Medeiros, a claim that Liccardo referred to in his speech,  “the developers should be made to play by the rules everybody else has to follow.”

In the end, it is up to voters to make an informed decision when voting on such measures. It is to be seen whether citizens will be taken in by the developers’ campaign against Measure C, or if they will read the “fine print” and vote against Measure B. At stake, as Mayor Liccardo puts it, is the future of our children and successive generations.

With less than two weeks to go for the June Primary and builder advertising in full swing, it appears to be an uphill battle for the city.

Jyoti Khera is a freelance writer based in San Jose. She writes on politics, food, and films.