I have not been writing for a longer time, it has been connected with personal issues, but also the conviction I should be writing only when I feel I can convey something important based on my life. So, I want you to treat this post as a kind of a friendly reminder or a lesson I can give from my personal experience.
2020 was really taught for me, of course, the pandemic hit and due to it I earned just less than 1/3rd of my regular income, but moreover, I lost my Mom - the best friend I had ever had. The 1st three months of 2021 were fine before the sudden and unexpected situation hit me and I had to spend 3 weeks in hospitals plus have a small surgery. So, again I have not been working for the last 5 weeks and in the next 3 months, my income will be very limited, as it always happens at such time of any year.
I am not writing it to make people feel sorry for me or to vent my emotions, I am writing it because during these hard times I saw how much mindfulness helped me mentally and how much it is important to have an emergency fund.
In my recent stay in hospitals, I used mindfulness meditation to help me go through days. To achieve it I was focusing on my breath, I used sound meditation focusing even on the sound of some woman's voice when she was talking to herself or when someone was crying. That was very unexpected, I did not know it was possible to achieve, but apparently, my previous practices of sound mediation had taught me to use it even in a hard environment.
Financially I am also coping pretty OK because before I had a chance to build an emergency fund. When I was doing it, or when I was reading how important it was to have one, the idea was totally theoretical. Suddenly, it has made total sense and I am living proof that having some money saved for rainy days is crucial.
Here I need to say, of course, I am privileged to have been able to save some money, but also I want to stress I normally do not earn some extravagant amount of money. So, I can be an example of people who even though do not earn too much, are able to use the money wisely.
So, what can you do to learn to meditate or save some $?
The most simple meditation - the sound meditation- can be practiced any time and everywhere. It should ground you here and now, make you feel quiet, or just be.
You can just sit down, or stand if you like, close your eyes if you wish and just focus on any sound that is coming to you. Do not judge the sound, do not say you don't like it or you like it. Just focus on it. When your thoughts flow away, return them kindly to the sound. And just breathe. The meditation can last as long as you wish.
If we speak about money, and I can't stress it enough - always live below your means, spend less than you earn. This is what I have learned in life. It leads to building some financial freedom, meaning you can be calmer in difficult times that at least you do not need to worry about money.
How to live below your means? Do not buy all the things you do not need, do not buy the things based on your whim, you really do not need the 10th pair of jeans or the newest model of a smartphone, or you really do not need to keep up with the Joneses, especially what the Joneses are probably broke. I can repeat it over and over again, and probably you may read it in my future posts, but this is the simplest truth of life. I know lots of folks will say YOLO, but it is a no-brainer we also can be prepared for some months of distress.
Besides all I have mentioned - always be kind to other people, good things will return to you in the most unexpected moments, and I am also the living proof of that.
Probably this is the best place and moment to thank all my friends, in my country but also all around the world who have taken such great care of me during the last several months. Sometimes the simple hug sent via social media made my days brighter. So, thank you all for your kind hearts.
I am writing this post in the midst of the pandemic, that has hit the people around the world so dramatically. So many of us need to find ourselves in the new reality of lockdowns, stay - home orders and social distancing. People in western cultures need to learn wearing masks of any kind is helpful or even life-saving behavior and it does not belong solely to the eastern world. We also need to face our deep fears, problems, approaches to life and this is the right time to do so.
We are being bombarded by the news about coronavirus cases, the number of deaths, but also by the news about re-opening the economy, returning to normality, and the new way of life in the future. Some people believe the post-pandemic world will be better, some say nothing will change as there were so many turning points in human history that did not change anything. I am somewhere in between. If there are enough people who want to change something for better, it may happen, but I do not believe everybody will suddenly forget greed, intolerance, racism, sexism to name the few.
I believe, though, this global stay-home order is the right time to find some changes in us and our approach to life because any change should start from ourselves.
Those who read this blog know I am a strong advocate of mindfulness, minimalism, slow life, financial independence. For me, all of them are connected with one factor - intentional life. For me, the post-pandemic world could change if many of us find just that.
Intention and mindfulness: being here and now means living intentionally, being fully committed to what we are doing, whom with, why, etc. When we start living intentionally we will see not only the other person but ourselves, we will respect both more. When we speak to somebody, we will be speaking to the fullest, not chacking our phones, for example. When playing, we will be playing, not drifting our thoughts to, say, work issues, so on and so forth.
Intention and minimalism: During the stay-put, we aren't using many things we own, either it is a piece of clothes, fancy handbag or any other pricy gadget we really had to buy before. Maybe this time is perfect to teach us to focus more, with intention, what we really need to possess. Do we really need to have 150 pairs of shoes ( yes, I know such people), especially when according to some studies we use not more than 30% of items we have. Do we need to have any modern gadget they advertise? Just remember, having more stuff does not make you happy. You buy 1 thing in one month and the next month this very thing is an oldie and the shopping spree begins again.
Intention and slow life: Some people are proud of being multitasking gurus, but is it the right thing to be proud of? Maybe this time is a good one to reevaluate what is really important in life. Working From Home- WFH- is quite a good example of it. Suddenly it appears we do not need to run like crazy to do a lot of things. When we live a bit slower and with the intention, we can choose what to do and when to do, fast or slowly. It is said that when, say, employees are given more freedom, they are happier and work more efficiently. I do believe it will have positive results in our daily, private life, too.
Intention and financial independence: The current situation reminds us there are no "lesser jobs", each job is important, without them our life ecosystem may collapse easily. So, is it not the best time to think about paying people better for their work? Then everybody could have the possibility of gaining financial independence if they want to. For those, like me, who earn enough or even more than needed, intentional spending means not buying things out of the impulse, things we don't need, seldom use. It means saving money for rainy days and our hobbies. I know a lot of people who have decent salaries but now are in the woods as far as their financial situation is concerned. They overspent before, behaving like children thinking they are entitled to have everything they want, without even thinking the situation may change in a second. Their greed made them blind to anything logical, especially the fact they are really poor even when earning thousands.
Intentional living makes us the owners of our lives, makes us decide not the society. When we make intentional decisions, we become free and freedom is one of the most beautiful things in life. So, I do hope our life after the pandemic will change, that many of us will live with the intention of anything we do.
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As a minimalist and a strong advocate of financial literacy and financial freedom of some kind, I've always been saying to:
- live below your means, don't spend the whole salary, especially on things you won't need or use very rarely.
- pay yourself first, always treat saving as a bill you need to pay at the beginning of a month.
- have an emergency fund, some money for the rainy days, specialists say to have 3- 6 months of your income saved on such a fund. I would say, as much as you can or as much as you feel comfortable with.
- invest the rest of the money you have and may invest, but look at the long term investing.
And here comes the pandemic, something nobody has really thought of, something we read about in history books. Suddenly we are all touched by it, also in financial meaning. Suddenly the whole world of financial freedom, FIRE movement is facing the backlash of the bigger or smaller kind.
It is not only connected with a sudden downtrend and losing our savings but moreover, it is connected with our psychology of finances.
I don't know if you have felt it, but I've noticed I am anxious not because of the lack of emergency funds, but the fact I will definitely have to use some money, if not all, in a period of 1 year, 1 year as I predict based on what some experts say, the pandemic to have a great effect on my income. So, if I am going through such thinking, you too may feel it, that's why I want you to know you are not alone or just ask you how you feel about it. ( you may always want to let me know at my Twitter account @Brygida_Poland)
The 2nd thing - paying myself first- I've decided to continue doing it, even though my original thought was to stop. I've realized though I will benefit from this money sooner or later, so as long as I have my emergency funds and I know my monthly budget, I find savings a part of my budget. Of course, for many, it will be wise to review the sums that you save, everything depends on how you feel about it.
The 3rd point, but also connected with the 2nd one, the part of my savings is allocating some money to mutual funds. I am still going to do that. Why? especially when the market is heading towards depression? Because I am still looking at investing in the long term. I know, I am aware now the market looks really bad, but in a few years the numbers will bounce back, from the investing perspective what is happening now could be just a short downtrend on the investing timeline. Plus, now while investing even small sums, but on a regular basis, we buy stocks/ mutual funds cheaper.
1 thing I do not recommend now to anybody, including myself, is buying individual stocks if we are not specialists. That is why I am saying about mutual funds or ETFs.
From the perspective of mindfulness I know, even in such hard financial times, it is good to keep cool heads, do not jump to fast conclusions, and act on them rapidly. It's good to just keep going with our own financial pace, doing it regularly. Time needs time for changes, let's give it time.
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There is no need to remind us we live in difficult times, with dangerous coronavirus spreading around the world, affecting each and every aspect of our lives.
Our thoughts go out to all the people suffering from the disease.
We all need to stay careful and stay put - social distancing ourselves in order to cut the ways of infection. Such isolation may and will influence a lot of us, not only physically, but also mentally.
Being mindful of our thoughts, especially those negative ones, can help us go through the hardship. If such thoughts occur, just observe them, don't cling to them. Let them go because sooner or later they will disappear.
Keep yourself busy, don't forget to have a daily routine. Don't get in the cycle of misery. Do something and do it intentionally, "meditate while pilling potatoes". Be there.
Maybe this hard situation can teach us something. Have you noticed how most of us rush, chasing unnecessary things? Lots of us have forgotten how to just sit and be; notice every small thing in our lives. Read quietly, observe nature, just experience every smallest aspect of life.
Maybe it's time to ask ourselves if we really want to lead such a busy life or we have been caught in such a lifestyle by the others and we just repeat what they do without even thinking this is the right thing. So, this time of self-isolation may be a great time for us, time to ask ourselves important questions, seek answers, make decisions. Maybe it is a lesson life gives us to stop and think, to look inward and become humane again.
It is definitely not time to panic. It is definitely time to stay reasonable and responsible for ourselves and for the others. It's not the time to put ourselves and the others in danger only because of our own whimsical behaviour.
It is also a great financial lesson for many. It is time to look at your spending patterns. It can teach us whether we save some part of our income, as small it may be, but regularly. Far too many people spend all they earn every day, and I am not talking about people who live on a minimum wage, I am talking about people who just have this urge to spend. Who being adults behave like a 3-year-old kid who has to have something, without noticing he/she won't appreciate this thing in a short time.
So, be there where you are, be there intentionally. Be open-minded and curious. Be responsible.
Stay put and stay safe!