- Ella Wu
A #hyphenatedAsians POV: Jessica Lin
The Universal Asian got to know Jessica Lin, a holistic healer, life coach, and creator of Jess Beyond the Body. Visit her site here.
*TW: mentions of suicidal ideation
Tell us a bit about your background.
Sure. My name is Jessica; my pronouns are she/her. My background is 15 years in holistic health, including yoga, a little bit of Ayurveda, and TCM, which is traditional Chinese medicine. I have a B.A. in art from Scripps College, and that’s a little bit about me!
How did you get into wellness and yoga?
My story is similar to some other folks; I dealt with a lot of chronic pain and mental health issues. I remember from around age 3, just being filled with a lot of anger, and it was very hard for me to manage it. I could tell from a young age that it was not normal, in the sense that it was beyond what was healthy. It was really affecting my quality of life, and it was affecting my interactions with friends and people at school. In elementary school I went online and typed in how to deal with this kind of feeling or these kinds of issues, and I found therapy and yoga as recommendations. My parents didn’t really believe in therapy at the time—as immigrants and as people of color, a lot of times there’s some stigma around mental health and wellness—but they did let me start yoga. I want to acknowledge, as I do in all of my workshops, that I did have the privilege of my parents speaking English so I could communicate with them, and I did have the financial resources to go to yoga and later on therapy. So, I continued my yoga, and it really kept me afloat, because I was very lonely and dealing with depression and suicidal ideation. The suicidal ideation started really early on in elementary school and my parents didn’t believe me, so the yoga studio was a really good space for me to stay out of trouble.
What is the most important thing people should pay attention to when taking care of their bodies?
I think that what’s important is finding out what works for the individual. That’s something I say over and over again—find what works for you. Everyone is so different. The example I usually give is my partner, who does martial arts. There’s a spiritual component to that, and yeah, he comes to my yoga classes and he’s done it before, but that might not be the avenue for him. I know folks who prefer other modalities, such as writing, and so I think it’s about experimenting and seeing what feels good, because what works for me may not work for someone else. Also, in terms of therapy, it takes a lot of shopping around, finding out if you want to do EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) vs CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) etc. etc. There are a lot of options, and there’s only 24 hours in a day, so we have to pick and choose.
What are the benefits of practicing yoga? How has it changed you as a person?
I think it benefits people by helping them live more thoughtfully. It helps me live consciously; thinking about what I actually want in life and whether I’m doing things because I enjoy them and not because I’m supposed to. The way I practice is about self-awareness—similar to my martial arts practice, which I just started. The thing is, it really helps folks live their lives with more intention. Otherwise, we’re just on autopilot. For me, yoga has really helped me cope with my emotions, because, as you know, I dealt with debilitating depression. Now, I feel really excited to wake up and be alive. And yeah, sometimes I’m grumpy and mad, and it’s not that yoga has made me a saint, but when I feel anger or frustration or even jealousy, I understand how to cope with those and slow down to deal with them. I can acknowledge what I’m feeling versus just stuffing it down. I’m a really happy person nowadays; my inner joyfulness has come up to the surface.
What was the most rewarding experience for you as a coach?
That’s a hard question to answer. I don’t like to do comparisons like “most” or “favorite,” because I think there’s beauty in every experience and situation. That’s actually, I think, the answer to the question: variety. I get to work with such a range of people. I’ve worked with people who are as young as kindergartners, working on their confidence and self-esteem. I’ve worked with people who are in their 60s, helping them with cancer recovery. I get to meet such amazing folks and learn from them, and develop lifelong friendships. These connections are genuine, and I don’t feel that lonely nowadays.
Walk me through a typical day for you.
It looks different every day. The way I live and the way I encourage others to live is to not compare yesterday to today. As someone who lives with chronic illness, I have to take it one step at a time. I have clients in the afternoon, so I have the morning to myself. I wake up, and my partner and I will chat with each other a bit, and it’s playful—we make a lot of jokes. So, my day starts out with a lot of laughter. Lately, I’ve been taking myself to local parks. I go on Yelp and find parks I haven’t been to before and start exploring. Last week, I went out and counted 31 turtles at this little pond. I often talk to my friends on the phone or video chat, or I’ll do a little bit of coloring or journaling, and yeah, you can see it varies. Around 3:00 or 4:00, I have private clients, and those are usually 1-2 hours in length. I try not to work more than 2-4 hours per day. I usually wrap up my day with more cuddles, and I do this thing called the positives game. We go through and talk about things that went really well during our day. It can be as simple as my partner driving to and from work safely or buying yummy blueberries.
The new year ushered a hope for and emphasis on healing. What are your top tips for soothing anxiety and battling depression?
Going back to the basics is really important. What I mean by that is: sleep, eating, and drinking water. A lot of times people want a miracle pill and spend tens of thousands of dollars on workshops and treatments, and the thing is, none of that is going to work if you’re sleep deprived. If people ask me what my secret is, I say I sleep 8-10 hours. That’s how I’m going to be functioning and getting through my day. I feel like most people I talk to don’t sleep enough, don’t eat enough, don’t drink enough, and that’s not to put blame on people—there’s so much pressure and expectation to be productive all the time. I used to proudly call myself a productivity nut, and now I think of myself as a recovering workaholic.
What advice would you give someone who feels they are too busy/unable to meditate?
There’s this proverb that says something along the lines of: “If you’re not busy, meditate for thirty minutes, and if you are busy, meditate for one hour.” I think that’s the best proverb ever. It makes so much sense. A lot of times people are busy or make themselves busy to avoid their feelings. If people are too busy, I think that’s the time to step back and think, well, what am I filling my time with, and does it make me feel fulfilled and happy? I don’t think that being too busy is a real problem; it’s more of an excuse. It’s a signal that maybe that person isn’t ready yet, but the people that are the busiest are the ones who need it the most. Start where you are, start with one minute, five minutes. You don’t have to sit in a lotus position; it doesn’t have to be so formal. You can sit there and just breathe. Meditating doesn’t have to be done with your eyes closed. It can be standing at the sink, paying attention to your dishes, feeling the water washing over your hands, feeling your feet on the earth. Being there in the moment, that’s also meditation.
What advice do you have for others thinking about becoming a wellness coach?
I’m actually doing a workshop on that soon. I would say go slowly, and don’t expect everything to happen right away. I think it’s about tapping into the heart of it. When you have a genuine connection and you’re in it because you care, it’s going to show to other people. I see a lot of life coaches who are all caught up in making six figures or seven figures, and I think that’s a really crappy reason to get into it. A very small minority of people are going to achieve that. If you want to make a lot of money, go into business or medicine.
How do you define happiness?
Happiness for me is feeling awake and present and alive. It’s finding joy in the little things, like looking at the sky and enjoying seeing color. It’s something I think about a lot. I’m so happy to see color. Not all animals can. Happiness is being happy with what I have. I’m not waiting for my next client or my next house or car. I am my happiness, and I carry that everywhere. It’s in the little moments of dancing around the room. I don’t even put on music; I just dance to the rhythm of life. Happiness is lots of laughter. I’m a really silly person, but I didn’t always have a space to share that part of myself growing up. Being able to express myself, going out without a bra, just being my true self. Happiness is a life where I’m making decisions because I want to.