Kai Xin 00:03
Hey friends, this is Kai Xin, and you’re listening to the Handful of Leaves podcast where we bring you practical Buddhist wisdom for a happier life. If you’re going through a rough patch, this episode is for you because we’ll be unpacking lots of practical tips to deal with difficult emotions in our lives. Unless we’re saints, whenever we meet with life challenges, negative emotions will inevitably rise to the occasion. Fear, anxiety, sadness, and worry. These are the usual suspects. In fact, these emotions creep into our everyday life in one way or another, and oftentimes make us feel terrible. If you’re like me, you would rather feel positive rather than negative, or you would rather feel happy rather than sad. As a result, we end up running away from these emotions unconsciously or subconsciously and miss the vital lessons they have to teach us.
Kai Xin 01:10
In this episode, we have our special guest, Ratna to share with us how to anchor our life with positivity while mindfully embracing negativity. Ratna is a living example of how best to use one’s vulnerability as a strength. Her personal journey is inspiring. She migrated to Singapore at a young age. She wasn’t proficient in English, and struggled with low self-esteemed. Then, during a public speaking engagement, she blanked out and froze. That’s pretty traumatic and totally crushed her confidence. But she picked herself up. And today, she is an esteemed coach in mindfulness and public speaking, and has even become a TEDx Speaker! Ratna is truly an inspiration and I’m thankful to have witnessed her rise in popularity and success over the last decade. Want to know how she did it? Tune in to the full episode. Right now, she is truly an inspiration. And I’m so thankful to have witnessed her rise in popularity and success over the last decade. Want to know how she did it? Tune in to the full episode as she shares how to use positivity as a superpower, and how to leverage negative emotions for growth. Finally, the ABC guide to dealing with difficult emotions. Now, let’s jump right in.
To kick things off, Ratna, what is your superpower?
My superpower is positivity. I strive to have optimistic outlook in life. As much as possible, for my friends and family I try to offer them genuine encouragements and also at the same time making people feel a bit better about themselves. So I think that’s one of the superpower that I have.
And why do you consider positivity a superpower?
In a world where we have so many negativities we face so many challenges in our life, I think it’s so important to have these qualities of positivity. Not ignoring the negative part of our emotions, but really having the positive thoughts and emotions as an anchor in our life that whenever there are any challenges any thing that we face in our life that may not be favourable, we can always use this qualities to be able to help us navigate challenges and changes in our life.
Kai Xin 03:45
Currently, you’re a mindfulness and wellbeing coach, and I think people can really benefit from your positivity. Can you share a little bit about some recent challenges that you face? And what are some of the steps you took to overcome them?
In fact, for the past few months, navigating the uncertainty of solopreneurship (was challenging). It was just like a lot of things that were going through my mind, from ‘what if’ scenarios where certain things may not go according to my plan, and to like the feelings of fear of choosing the wrong path. Having different expectations from my parents to some family members and facing financial instability as I navigate this solopreneurship myself, it was quite a lot of things happening at the same time. It was kind of overwhelming for me. There were lots of uncomfortable emotionsthat I experienced, from feeling confusion, anxiety, as well as fear. I just felt like “I’m not sure if this is something that I really wanted to do.” At the same time also, there were a lot of things that were not within my control. So it was quite tough to actually go through that period for the past few months There was a time that I couldn’t hold it anymore, so I cried. And I should say it was a good way of releasing my emotions and the tension that is being stored in my body.
For me, I took some time to actually unpack my emotions, and process them sharing this with the people that I trust, they are my mentors, as well as my trusted advisors who have my best interests at heart. So by sharing it with them, and listening to what they have to offer, from their own perspective also helps me to open up a different perspective about things in different ways as well. But at the end of the day, I have to make a decision for myself, and what really helps me a lot was the practice of mindfulness meditation practice, to actually come down my emotions, my thoughts, and it helps me to also quieten down the noise and silencing that inner critic to also bring my attention back to the present moment to really focus on what really matters the most. One more thing that really helps a lot is the journaling practice. So every day, I took some time to basically just journal my thoughts and my feelings kind of like just put my thoughts and feelings on paper, and not to overthink too much. So that really helps a lot in navigating all those uncertain moments that has been happening for the past few months.
Kai Xin 06:51
Wow, thanks for sharing this very vulnerable journey, it’s definitely not easy being a solopreneur. And I hear you mentioned a few things that are helpful, of course, your superpower came in very handy. And then beyond that, it’s also not suppressing it too much. Because to a point when you’re holding back, then you have to release. And after releasing your consult others, and you also notice your inner critic, then you take time to reflect. I’m just trying to expand on this inner critic part a little bit, because I think some people can find it challenging to balance, sometimes we can be overly positive, we call it toxic positivity, where we misjudge the reality, and everything feels like rainbows and sunshine, when actually it’s not. On the other hand, we are overly critical to a point where it’s not constructive. So to you based on your experience, how do you know when to release your emotions and when to hold it back and just be positive?
I think for me, I kind of took quite a bit of guidance from my body. So whenever I feel a certain emotion, will come back to my body and really feel ways this emotion resides in my in my body. By having that, it helps me a lot to release a lot of tension, especially the negative emotions that is being stored in my body. Gounding exercises, such as, the breathing and all that helps me to recalibrate myself to the baseline, in a way not to spiral down into a much one negative emotion. And knowing that whatever I’m experiencing right now might not be really real, like what we thought it is, because our feelings and emotions are sometimes are just guidance or compass to what we are experiencing right now, but still have the power to choose whatever we wanted to experience in our life or whatever we wanted to create, to have a different kind of outcome in whatever situations that we experience as well.
I really appreciate the fact that you say that our body is a guidance to our emotions, and at the same time you say acknowledge that we have the power to be able to decide how we want to deal with these emotions. And it’s so true, right? Our body holds all our emotions. If we feel stress, we feel it in the stomach area that we feel angry, it’s in the chest area. And once you’re able to learn how to kind of, I think be comfortable or accept the sensation to able to move on. I was wondering if you would be able to maybe share what exercise helped you to be in tune with your body in a way and respond appropriately after that?
I do quite a bit of grounding and breathing practice. For example, if I wanted to relive whatever events that is happening not according to what I expect it to be, and then you will kind of like probably come up with all sorts of emotions that might not be really pleasant. Because of that, then I will ask myself, “Where is this emotions residing in my body?” Sometimes it can be around my shoulders area or my chest area, and I can also feel a tingling sensation in certain parts of my body. When I felt that way, I will take a deep breathing, and then I’ll just release my breathing into the areas where I feel the most tension in my body to help to ease the tension. And one more practice that I also use is to use humming. Basically, I take a deep breath, and as I breathe out, I will hum into that part of my body that feels that tingling sensations or elevated emotions. And other practice that I do is walking in nature. So as I walk it, it really helps me to feeling much more grounded, you know, connecting to the nature, and all that. So it really helps to, in a way, bring that more positive emotions as well.
Kai Xin 11:06
I’m quite curious, what if you do all that, but you still feel very tense?
I think another practice could be sharing it with others as well, like, you know, sometimes by by just sharing it with others. It’s to process our feelings and thoughts, and then having a sounding board helps you to probably give some kind of suggestions or good advice helps to, in a way shift our emotions or feelings into a more empowering one. One of the thing that I also felt was really important is to have self acceptance, because a lot of times when we feel unpleasant emotions, we want to resist it, because we just don’t want to feel it. But the more we resist it, it keeps persisting. What I find it useful is to really acknowledge that, hey, I’m feeling a certain way, I’m feeling anxious, I’m feeling this way, you know. And to label the emotions and observe it as the third party. So not saying that, “Oh, I, I’m angry,” or “I’m, you know, I’m feeling fear, but to distance ourselves with the emotions itself, and looking at it as a third party. I can say, like, you know, I’m experiencing this anxiety in my body, I’m experiencing whatever feelings in my body. By doing that, it kind of like helped us to detach from the emotions and feelings itself.
Kai Xin 12:46
And I think it also goes to show that it’s not always the solution to run away, because I mean, based on experience as well, if I feel very tense, I feel frustrated, I want to meditate it away. And then if I don’t feel that I have become more at ease, I get even more frustrated. So I think it’s kind of a combination of the feelings are signs to tell us that we need to act on it, and it’s also a clue, it’s serving a purpose in telling us what exactly is the underlying cause that I’m feeling frustrated. One thing I also found really interesting from one of the retreats is, oftentimes we get too caught up with the intense sensation. But we can, let’s say in our body, right, we can draw a line and say, “Where does the tense sensation stop?” So if I feel very tight on my shoulder, then I can draw a very tight, they’re getting less and less tight, and probably my fingers are relaxed. And it just opens up possibility that the whole situation isn’t all that bad. There is still some goodness within sight. Personally, I found that to be very helpful.
Yeah, exactly. I do agree with that as well. I always find the self awareness will set us free, you know, when we are being aware of like, hey, this emotions, what is this emotion trying to tell me? It also gives us a clue into what we are feeling what we are feeling right now.
Just going back to what you shared just now. I think there were two points that caught my attention. I think the first was share with a trusted friend, how you feel and to kind of have a sounding board. I think that is very interesting, because for myself, at least, I tend to close up or isolate if I feel like I’m in a bad space. And the last thing I want to do is, is to show like the super ugly side to my friends. That’s why the second thing that you mentioned about you know, distancing yourself from the emotion and depersonalising it is so powerful because it then takes away some of the shame, or the power of guilt that I’m feeling to just say, “Okay, this is just an experience that I’m having. That is not the whole of me and it’s just a part like, you know, the what Kaixin mentioned as well, it ends. Certain sensations end at a certain part of your body. So I would like to ask how can we make it easier for us to open up and have that courage to reach out to our friends for support when we’re in a very tough space?
For me, instead of keeping it to myself and feeling helpless, not being able to find solutions to the challenges that I face, I might rather reach out to people, especially not to everyone that you probably don’t trust, because you want to ensure that it is a safe space for both of us to really share whatever problems that we have. I think it’s also very important to really choose whoever, people that you wanted to share. And knowing that, you know, they also have our best interests at heart and knowing that they wanted to help us to be in a better space as well.
Kai Xin 16:03
It reminds me of a book called chatter. It’s by this author called Ethan Cross. So you know, we all have those narrative and voice in our head. And in one of the chapters he actually mentioned, it’s so crucial to pick the right friends, because there are some friends, when you confide in them, they will reinforce that negativity. So let’s say if I complain that my boss really is terrible, or my situation is terrible. They’ll say yeah, your situation is terrible. You should blah, blah, blah, blah. And it just makes you feel worse. But I think a good friend is someone who knows when to listen, when to ask the right questions, so that you use that as a way to clear your thoughts or when to just be a sounding board. And yeah, I think it’s really important to reach out.
Yeah, as what Brene Brown said, right, and vulnerability is not weakness, it is actually strength. Because the more we actually share, whatever we experience, with courage,, it actually helps to open up a certain part of us, that helps to heal as well. Take, for example, I’ve always shared one of my biggest challenges in my life, which is my fear of public speaking. When I was young, I was afraid to really share that, but as I get older, and I also have to overcome this traumatic experience I have, I need to slowly open up myself. So, I kind of like started to share my own personal story with a small group of friends. And then of course, I also seek for help, with the practice of mindfulness in managing my speaking anxiety. When I do that, it actually helps me to open up my own personal scars. It’s not comfortable sharing that, but as I open up myself, and when people actually resonate with my own personal stories or struggles, it helps me to heal from within as well, because it’s not that I’m asking for validation, but it helps me to connect with others. I’m sharing this because I’m just a normal human being, you know, who wants to be happy, who wants to be free from suffering. By sharing this personal experience, it helps me to open up myself and heal at the same time. So that really helps a lot for me.
Kai Xin 18:36
I’m wondering where you are now, in your journey of healing.
I think the journey of healing is a never ending journey. It’s always a continuous journey and progress. I will really credit my own personal journey of healing through the practice of mindfulness that has really bring so much courage for me to be able to really face that fear. That is really, quite big to face. Because when I faced that during my teenager days, it was so big to the extent that it literally crushed my self confidence. Yeah. So because of that, I was also looking out for ways to help me rebuild that confidence back and to really face and embrace that fear because it’s something that is so uncomfortable for me.
The practice of mindfulness has helped me a lot in that healing process. So I always call this ABC of mindfulness. The first one is awareness. The awareness part of it is that it helps me to just be aware of the things that I’m afraid of. Knowing that hey, if I keep doing the same thing, keep feeling the fear I’ll end up not being able to really move forward. So, the awareness part really helps me to, opens up that willingness to be able to take the small steps to be able to change my life. In order for me to be able to improve my life for a better, I need to make a change so it helps to open up that self awareness part and take that small little steps to be able to face my fear. Because of that, I started to join a Toastmasters community to be able to help me overcome my fear. And eventually, it slowly built up my confidence as well.
The B part is our balance. It’s really finding the balance between embracing the feelings and emotions itself, not resisting it, but at the same time to also knowing how to take action, despite feeling a certain way. In the early days of my healing journey, the first part of it is to really accept that, “Hey, I feel a certain way because of that past, traumatic experience I had in the past, I’m feeling this way. I know it’s not comfortable, and I wanted to, you know, take the steps to help me improve myself and become a better speaker.” And because of that, and when I came into the acceptance part of it, I slowly move into, taking some steps to actually also help me to to do better. So I do a practice called incantation. So basically incantation is like, you know, reciting an empowering mantras or empowering sentence or whatever it is to help me feel better. For example, “yes, I can!” That also helps me a lot. So I did that quite often during my run in the mornings. As I run, I keep repeating the incantation part of it, that really helps a lot. Yeah, so that’s the second part of it.
And then the third part is curiosity and compassion. So, you know, whenever I felt fear or whatever emotions that I’m feeling that might not be comfortable, it’s always an invitation to kind of like also ask deeper what are these emotions or feelings are trying to tell me. Are there underlying emotions that we are trying to solve right. So, I think that asking, having that curiosity, approaching that emotions with that curious mind also helps to opens up and helping us to be a bit more comfortable with the emotions itself. The last but not least, which is the compassion part is also because a lot of times when we feel when we have friends who is like feeling a bit down, we will have a tendency to kind of like you know, console them and all that. The compassion part of it is also the compassion that we have towards the feelings and emotions that we are experiencing as well. Treating them as a kind friend, you know, like knowing that “hey, I know that these feelings or emotions exist because there is a certain kind of needs needs to be met, right?” So really being a kind friend and having that compassion to really self soothe myself whenever that feelings and emotions appear.
I really love how you share you know, the process of ABC in terms of transforming and healing yourself. But, you know, let’s dig a little bit deeper into facing the demons. Right and going back to the traumatic experiences, where, you know, the inner critic was the winner. So what what are some of the things that you were saying to yourself and how did that in a way suffocate you?
Whenever I felt negative emotions or even that self talk, I’m not good enough. I’m stupid, or or I’m probably not as good as someone else. It makes me feel guilty makes me feel shameful, it makes me not taking action. So whenever I felt that way, right, they always felt disempowered. So I couldn’t, you know, do anything because of that kind of like negative self critics and it was definitely not helping me a lot to improve myself as well.
Kai Xin 24:55
It is like going back to asking how do we find that balance? So if the inner critic is our friend, we use it to get better and improve. But the moment when the inner critic put us down, and we start falling apart and we don’t perform well, we can’t function, then that’s where we have to put a stop to say, hey, what exactly am I doing right here? And I think at the end of the day, whatever anxiety, fear that we are feeling, it’s all trying to protect us in some sense. So it’s having that mindfulness and reminding us over and over again, what is it trying to tell me? How can I make it useful? With regards to Cheryl’s question on how the inner critic has kindled your potential? Now with mindfulness, how did your narrative change?
I think probably in the past, when I experienced failure, I noticed there is like, inner critics that is popping up and all that, it kind of like made me feel, oh it I’m not good enough to do something about it, right. And so it makes me feel afraid of making mistakes and made me small. Yeah. So with mindfulness, it really helps to change the narratives like, “Hey, this is probably something that I’m experiencing currently in my life. But what is this event or situation trying to teach me? What’s great about this? It’s really taking that opportunities to also finding the goodness in whatever I’m experiencing the failures that I’m experiencing right now.
I think the cool thing that I am taking away here is that the inner critic is not necessarily an enemy, and learning how to befriend it can help you to go towards your goal be it self improvement, or growth in a more skillful manner, right in a way that actually helped propels your journey rather than, you know, just throwing stones at yourself and making your journey a little bit harder. And I think a lot of times, you know, when people approach this topic of inner critic as well, it’s always on the, on the kind of topic of like, an inner critic is negative. Let’s just do away with it, just push it away. But I think there’s value in seeing what is it really trying to inform us and and how can we tap into curiosity, as you’ve mentioned, many times and really get the good value there.
Kai Xin 27:21
Yeah, and I think it does require a lot of self love, not in a sense that, you know, everyone is bad, and then we should just love ourselves and not improve, everything is okay. But I think self love to know when to be kinder, and then when to be tough. And I’m wondering, how do you offer yourself some compassion? Is there any advice you can give to our listeners to do the same for themselves?
We are our own biggest critics, right. And sometimes, you know, we probably beat ourself without realising it. And I think, instead of comparing ourselves with others, it’s also having every comparison in terms of like, our own personal journey, and how much we have grown. It helps us to looking at our own personal journey as like a journey of growth, instead of I am not better, I am not as good as compared to the other person. Yeah. So I think that also helps a lot to give ourselves more loves and self compassion towards our own personal journey to be a better person.
At the same time, self Compassion is like a continuous journey as well, for me is also to understand ourself a lot more better, by also understanding our own personal boundary. What are the things that makes us happy? What are the things that probably doesn’t serve us well, and having the courage to also say no, to the things that don’t serve us? Well, another tip will be taking ourselves less seriously. Because sometimes we take ourselves too seriously, we probably get offended if someone says certain things or have things not meeting our expectations. So I think learning to really take ourselves less seriously and just having fun really helps a lot to also cultivate a self compassion.
If there’s one question that our listeners can use to reflect on a daily basis, what would that be?
Some of the questions that I use on my daily journaling will be what are two things that I’m grateful for today? The second one is “What are the things that I wanted to let go of today?” That practice really helps me a lot to let go of whatever things that doesn’t serve me because a lot of times, we always think the letting go part is like such a big thing. But I think is that in the daily practice of letting go really helps us to ease a lot of tension as well. And the third one is “what are the things I’m proud of?” It helps us to also remind our own personal growth and milestones every single day. A lot of times we forget to really remind ourselves about what are the things that we have accomplished. Last but not least, is the fourth question that I always ask myself is, what are the things that I wanted to focus on today? So, that really helps me a lot to really focus on what truly matters today. Those are the four questions that I always ask myself every day during my daily journaling.
Kai Xin 30:34
Thank you so much. I thought those are really helpful. And to wrap up, I think we can talk about some of the common themes that we have been discussing, I think it comes back full circle to really identifying what serves us and what doesn’t serve us, whether it’s the voice in our head, or whether is it finding friends so that we can move ahead. Inner critic isn’t all that bad if we use it correctly, and also to not take things too personally to see from a third person’s perspective, so that we don’t feel so much shame. Shame is not ours. Fear is not ours, but it is us who experience it. And those are very transient as well. So thanks a lot for helping us to reframe our mindset to overcome our negative self talk.
I really love how throughout the episode, sister Ratna always shared about how mindfulness is really the anchor point, and it’s really the foundation in which these transformations and this reframing of perspectives and narratives come from. It’s a good inspiration and a good reminder to always use mindfulness as a foundation, and more importantly, apply to the challenges that you’re facing. And I think with that, we could wrap up today’s episode.
Kai Xin 31:46
Thanks for being here. Thank you. And that’s a wrap for this episode. If you’d like to stay inspired by Ratna, you can follow her on IG or Facebook. Links are in the show notes. And if you’ve benefited from this episode, do share it with your friends and leave us a five star review wherever you’re tuning into this podcast to the next episode. May you stay happy and wise!