Allow that person to be — Many times when people offer support and help, there is a set of expectations. Expectations that the other person will welcome it, expectation that your help will make immediate change. But when you offer support based on these expectations, you can accidentally shift focus from them to yourself. Offer support and help without any expectations and truly just because you want to help.Remember that this step is part of a bigger goal in conjunction with steps 1 through 4, to help effectively support those that are anxious.
As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Caroline Vo.
Caroline Vo is the Founder & CEO of Omflow, a 24 hour live, interactive online yoga studio that allows students to connect and practice yoga in real-time through 2-way video streaming. She started Omflow in 2019 after experiencing a need as a yoga teacher to teach without the confinements of a geographic location, limitation in pay and constrained studio schedule. As a yoga student, Caroline also felt there was a need that existed in the market to be able to access high quality yoga practices at a more affordable rate, at more convenient times.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
In April of 2018, after 11 years of fighting to fit in a world where I didn’t belong, climbing my way up the Corporate America ladder in 8 positions at 8 different companies with 8 different managers, of which only 2 had any belief in me, I finally left. I quit my 6 figure job, bought a one-way ticket to Southeast Asia and traveled to 10 different countries with a backpack, a duffel bag, 2 books and my traveling pillow. I completed a vipassana anapanasati which is a silent meditation retreat focused on breath and it completely transformed the way I thought about the role breath plays in life. Immediately after, I jumped onto a plane and headed to Rishikesh, India to become a certified yoga teacher. In the winter of 2018, I realized there was an opportunity to share knowledge and experience of how powerful breath and mindful movement are closely interconnected and the ability to connect with high quality teachers regardless of location. So in February 2019, with encouragement from my older brother Bao, I concepted the idea of ‘online yoga’ and in May 2019, incorporated and founded Omflow.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
No one day is ever the same and I would say every day is interesting because of the people I’m so blessed to meet and work with. My teachers are located all over the world — this allows us to offer online yoga, 24 hours a day. So in the same day that I’m taught about Saraswati Puja, which is a celebrated festive day that marks the fifth day of spring in the Hindu calendar in India, I’m also able to learn that Canada is the largest producer of maple syrup, coming from the French-speaking province of Quebec, which supplies two-thirds of the world’s maple syrup.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
In order to create a fantastic work culture, I think it’s important to start as early as the recruitment process. Before hiring others onto the team, learn more about who would be potentially joining the team — what their intrinsic values are and if they align with the company. This type of prescreening will help to build a strong culture because what’s driving the behavior and work ethic of each team member, is shared amongst everyone. I also believe that there needs to be a balance in the culture that incorporates team members not only being skilled, technical experts in the field they’re being hired for, but team members as human beings and where empathy and compassion will need to be demonstrated by the company.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
There’s so many books — where does one begin! 🙂 I will say that I’ve always enjoyed reading “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki. I think I was in college when I was first introduced to it, maybe a bit younger. This book is really easy to read but also incredibly educational in understanding how powerful a mindset can be; that the difference between those who are “rich” and those who are “poor” can come from how they view money and make money work for them. One sees money as the destination and a finite entity, the other sees it as energy and a constant flow in creating opportunities in the form of space.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?
I believe being mindful means being fully present and fully aware. When you’re mindful, your attention is focused on the moment and you recognize, identify and increase your conscious state of your surroundings. Being mindful is being in a concentrated yet unattached state to the moment that is in existence — no judgment, no ego and no expectations of what is happening, where it’s happening, why it’s happening, when it’s happening, who it’s happening or how it’s happening, it’s purely happening and your experience is contained yet unconstrained to that moment.
This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?
The path to becoming mindful is not an easy one — I still continue to practice and work towards this! A few of the physical, mental and emotional benefits of becoming mindful include:
- Lowers the levels of stress, anxiety, depression
- Reduces blood pressure, heart disease, headaches and migraines
- Allows more restful sleep
- Increased clarity and thinking
- Improves concentration and focus
- Allows a more present state of being
- Experienced emotions of gratitude and appreciation
- Increased moments of contentless, peaceful and bliss
- Improved connection with self through stillness
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
5 steps to develop mindfulness during certain times
- Be present. Regardless of the pandemic or not, life is uncertain. Life will always be unpredictable and there’s no way to manage or control this. This was true before the pandemic, and it will be true after the pandemic. Recognize this truth and work towards shifting your thoughts and focus from the past and the future to this present moment. This is important to practice even after the all the upheaval and political uncertainty and pandemic fears settle down.
- Be aware. Notice, observe, heighten your awareness of what is happening. Not in a reactionary way but simply as an observer. Learn through sensations, recognition, awareness.
- Don’t judge. Upon observing, work to not judge. Work to remove expectations as you’re not able to control situations but only control how you decide to respond.
- Recognize and quiet the ego. If you notice that your ego is present and that your ego is the one responding to what’s happening, quiet it. Instead move through a place of logic.
- Practice. Mindfulness is not a quick hit or an easy solution. It takes practice and time, constant self reflection, constant resetting and recalibrating. Work to implement these steps through the practice of each one as they arrive, or all together in the form of meditation.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
In order to effectively support others who may be feeling anxious, 5 steps to take can include:
- Recognizing your emotions — Understand where your energy is. Are you centered, stressed, angry, happy? Understanding your emotions before you take on the emotions of others is very important because ultimately, what you are feeling will be projected onto others, and if you’re working to support someone that is anxious, you’ll want to make sure that you’re in a place prepared to manage their energy of emotions.
- Offer a space — Allow those who may be feeling anxious to be in that space. Don’t judge, don’t force, simply hold a space where they can exist and allow that emotion to pass.
- Provide support — Communicating support, help and assistance can be very effective so those that are anxious know that they’re not alone, that they can reach out during this time to get through this time with others.
- Offer to join — Offering solutions in form of “teamwork” can help alleviate the anxiety someone is feeling so they don’t feel alone. It can be an activity such as going for a walk or exchanging stories and connecting through emotions, or meditating together — any activity that may help reduce the high strung energy and wild “monkey mind” (a phrase that describes an unsettled mind) that’s taken place in that anxious person may be invaluable.
- Allow that person to be — Many times when people offer support and help, there is a set of expectations. Expectations that the other person will welcome it, expectation that your help will make immediate change. But when you offer support based on these expectations, you can accidentally shift focus from them to yourself. Offer support and help without any expectations and truly just because you want to help.Remember that this step is part of a bigger goal in conjunction with steps 1 through 4, to help effectively support those that are anxious.
What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?
Resources like taking a yoga class, participating in a mediation workshop are helpful. Then there are “non-resources” like taking a walk in silence without music or distractions or turning off electronics and being by yourself for 10 minutes a day that just allows the mind to be focused on nothing else but the present.
For me, the best resource and way to learn was to experience it fully. I did a 10-day silent meditation retreat in Thailand. I understand not everyone is able to, but if you have the opportunity, I would suggest and highly encourage completing a 10-day silent meditation retreat and vipassana or anapanasati. I think this one 10-day period can help people see and learn what would take years and years, or even a lifetime for others to learn and understand. And I would also add that if the thought of 10 days is “a lot”; be reminded that the journey to becoming mindful and living a life of peacefulness is just that, it’s a journey. So in the context of a lifetime, 10 days is simply one step closer to that realization of self.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
There is a quote by Vivian Greene, and it’s my favorite. It’s, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain”. This quote couldn’t capture the essence of life any more beautifully. As life is full of uncertainties, we’re given a choice. We can spend our lives waiting for that “perfect” moment to happen, and wait just a little bit more “to see”, or we can fully embrace the moment that is happening now, and learn how to find the beauty in which that moment is given to us. I strongly believe in this philosophy and continue to practice improving on it every day. It is the foundation of belief for Omflow: to be mindful, more present and fully aware. And to exist in the moment, learning to experience existence through observation, without judgment, without ego.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I want to inspire greater compassion, kindness, and empathy in the world. This means every person is mindful, present and aware of others and themselves. It means individuals taking accountability for who they are and what they exchange and put out into the world so they could understand that the effect that they have at a scale is in-fact, the effect that starts within themselves. Omflow is working on this movement through the practice of yoga, self, breath and body.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Clubhouse @carolinevo, Instagram @omflow.yoga and our Community Newsletter that keeps the community up to date with where we are and what we’re working on. The Community Newsletter can be accessed via email.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!
Thank you for having me!