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Year-In Review 2022 Part 2: Da Cosa Nasce Cosa 

A thread unraveling 

If you told me 5 years ago I’d be smiling in the snow I’d never believe it…

By the end of where I was in part 1 of my Year-In-Review I was emotionally, mentally and psychologically spent, disappointed at myself at overestimating my capacity to take things on, resulting in my failure to realize the full potential of any of them. There was also a tinge of regret of not having really rested properly during Winter (Dec 21′ – Feb 22′), a deep longing of mine, being a teacher and practitioner of cyclical wisdom and seasonal living myself.

Shifting gears: Doing Nothing, Being Honest, Saying no

These sentiments fed my top priority for the second half of 2022: Spaciousness. I would set aside lots of time to ‘do nothing’, something I was incredibly uncomfortable with, and even felt guilty about as a result of growing up in a hyper productive and achievement-oriented society. (Btw, if you’re suffering from productivity guilt, you’ll find comfort and insight from this episode of Hurry Slowly podcast on Productivity Shame by the brilliant Jocelyn K. Glei).

To have ample time to do nothing meant having to be brutally honest with myself. What was my heart-felt intention and dream? What was I doing that nourished my soul (and filled my wallet)? And what was I doing purely to get the bills paid? At this point I knew:

  • My callings: What resonated with me were deeper spiritual teachings relating to living that I wanted to share with the world, rather than merely the superficial physical benefits of Yoga Asana, or even Qigong forms
  • My gifts: As told to me by others, I am a gifted and skilled teacher with the capacity to move others with my gestures and words.
  • My joys: Holding space and witnessing others’ growth and change happened brought me joy and fulfillment. I particularly love the magic of a group, as we are greater than the sum of our parts.
  • My path: I wasn’t interested in parroting others, replicating what others had already done or following someone else’s blueprint. I am unique and I was ready to create and share something reflecting that, that would impact the lives of others and stand out amongst all the others.

As uncomfortable and counter-intuitive as it felt, it was apparent I had to say no to the things that no longer resonated with me, so with the space created, I could invite the things I really wanted to enter my life. Negotiation expert William Ury calls this the Positive Nosaying no to something or someone else, so you can say yes to something else. I must have already have intuitively understood this, as I had started to act on it in before 2022 even started:

  • 31 Dec 21′: I halved my regular teaching of physical Asana-focused Yoga classes for a weight loss-focused studio from 8 classes to 4 weekly in Jan, and then 2 weekly in March to invite more spiritual work to come in. Finally in Feb 2023′ I ended my teaching tenure of 2 years with the team. The experience was pivotal in building my confidence in teaching Yoga online but I knew our paths were no longer aligned.
  • 3 Jan 22′: I stopped offering private Yoga in-person completely to invite more online and group work which I enjoy more
  • 4 Feb 22′: I taught my last in-studio Hot Vinyasa Flow group class. I hadn’t regularly practiced Vinyasa flow or visited in a hot room since ages, and had already, without telling the studio, been integrating Qi Gong in the ‘Vinyasa Flow’ classes for more than a year
  • 6 Mar 22′: I taught my last in-studio group class (Qi Gong) for 2022 at YogaUnion, to invite more online work in English, which I enjoy more.

💭 What can you say No to, so you can say Yes to something else?

Finding the right words: Menstruality Leadership Programme with the Red School

Through Uma’s Women’s Yoga Therapy training my and discovered the Red School and their work on Menstrual awareness, and felt drawn to embark on their 4 month-long program, Menstruality Leadership programme (MLP)

Founded by Alexandra & Sjane, the Red School empowers women to live their life to the fullest through the power of the menstrual cycle. 

Two months into Red School’s MLP I found a powerful word to describe my many powerful past experiences including co-creating BW no filters with Barbara earlier in 2022: ‘Allowing’, as coined by, Red School’s founder and our guide Alexandra Pope. 

Allowing, to me, meant following a strong heartfelt impulse to do something, but not for personal agenda or for specific benefit. I had been hearing, feeling these impulses but ignoring them for years. Despite starting late, still, I was no stranger to the practice of ‘Allowing’. Of the many examples, the most prominent is probably my experience in 2019, wherein through what I can only say is the hand of, the Source, the Divine, I created a painting, ‘The Wave’ which someone offered $1000 to buy, and an accompanying story, ‘The droplet’, about my journey to find myself, and find home. 

Watercolour painting of a droplet rising above an ocean wave
The Droplet, a Watercolor painting of a droplet rising above an ocean wave, came to me through the process of allowing

Through the Red School I also finally found vocabulary to describe a manner of ‘doing nothing’ that finally resonated both logically, emotionally and spiritually: ‘Lying Fallow’. After a season of cultivation and harvest, farmers leave land to lie fallow – uncultivated, unused, so that there is time to restore the soil, now stripped of it’s nutrients, back to it’s fertile, nutrient-rich state.

Wood becomes Water: Teaching Aqua Yoga Qigong on Resorts World Cruises, Snow in Turin 

I like to think that it is also through the process of Allowing, that I manifested an incredible opportunity to realise my heartfelt desires – to guide and support others to find flow in their lives, and to be close to water. About two years ago, I discovered that according to my Bazi  八字, based on the Heavenly stems and Earthly branches of my birth hour, date, month and year, my constitution is predominantly Wood, and has absolutely no water, though it does have some of the other three Elements (Fire, Earth and Metal). Perhaps by absolute coincidence, the name my parents had given me – Wenlin 文琳, is also abundant in wood, the constituent character 林 in the radical 琳 meaning forest.

Having majored in psychology, I was no stranger to personality types – having undergone and studied as part of my undergraduate curriculum multiple tests, from the DISC to the Big Five to the Myers Briggs 16 Types. Each time I explored one of these tools it felt like I shed light on a previously unexplored territory of myself, and that gradually, I was getting to know exactly who I was. I much preferred these approaches of understanding my personality over things like Bazi 八字, which I dismissed simply as fortune-telling and fraud. Personality is dynamic, changing and a result of not just nature, but more importantly nurture, I thought. How could the hour, day, month and the year when someone is born affect their constitution, and even their fate, their destiny? It seemed unlikely.

When I discovered my predominantly Wood constitution and the strange coincidence with the Wood present in my name, it was as if I had found an explanation for how I had lived all my life: I was a doer, restless in the company of having no place to go, nothing to busy myself with, no one to become. I fiercely fought for the weak in situations where unfairness prevailed, and I had a fiery temper and anger, that would surface in the form of impatience at my time being wasted, and frustration when my well-thought plans were foiled. I was hunger for growth and eager to learn and explore as many different realms, tools as possible, reflecting in the diverse interests and pursuits I took on starting from when I was a child. The power of Wood is 生, birth, creation – in starting, initiating things, being the driving force behind manifesting ideals from the abstract realm in the concrete reality. In the never-ending cycle of evolution and creation, this force is also the potential to be reborn, to reinvent oneself, as I had done so many times in my own life – pursuing and developing different careers, interests and identities. As I read through the description of the Wood archetype in Between Heaven and Earth, the Chinese Medicine classic by Efrem Korngold and Harriet Beinfield, I felt a jolt to my heart – Yes, this is me, all of me.

And though it gave me great joy to understand and embrace my true nature, I realised it was also my weakness. Anger arises when Wood is out of balance. I had struggled with frustration, impatience for many years, and my direct manner had affected my relationships with my friends as well as my close family. In the Creation cycle of the Five Elements in Chinese medicine, Wood is preceded by it’s mother and source, Water. If Wood is the beginning, Water is the end. After going through the entire cycle, Wood becomes Water. For Wood to flourish and grow, I needed Water; I needed to become Water. As the realization hit me, all strange events leading up to it started to make sense – why the painting the droplet had come to me, why I had decided to take up adult swimming classes, why I wanted to learn Aqua Yoga, why I longed to be close to the ocean, to the sea.

As if by magic, an unexpected opportunity flowed to me while I was visiting my family in Singapore came to me: teaching Aqua Yoga Qigong on a cruise. I would be immersed in Water, guiding participants to cultivate flow and ease, while being surrounded by Water – what more could I ask for? 

Triangle pose in Aqua Yoga
Teaching Aqua Yoga Qigong on Resorts World cruises

At the start of my journey I had decided, without knowing why, that the name of my Facebook and Instagram page would be Flow With Wenlin. Looking back, it probably came from my heartfelt desire to support others to invite more ease and flow in their lives, to become intimate with and flow with life itself. I had already experienced flow through various diverse experiences, including art-making, my mindfulness practice, qigong or even at work while teaching, but the feeling of moving in Water, with Water gave me a genuine felt-sense of water it was like to be flow with or be resisting against the current of something greater than myself, and I longed to share this experience with others. 

During my teaching tenure on Resorts World Cruises, aside from teaching Aqua Yoga Qigong, I also had the great fortune to be able to lead a workshop on Women’s Acupressure and Yangsheng 养生 Life cultivation tips from Chinese Medicine and Qigong. A woman’s life cycle maps onto the four seasons and Five elements present within the creative cycle. Spring, the Wood element is this rising, playful, explorative energy you experienced in girlhood. Summer, the Fire element is the vibrant, expansive and full energy you feel and express as a young woman during your menstruating years. Autumn, the Metal element, is the reflective, contracting energy dominant when you move towards menopause. Winter, the water element, is the downward flowing energy dominant in your life as a post-menopausal wise woman. 

Teaching Women’s acupressure and self-care

Through my menstrual cycle, I had an embodied and intimate experience with the Five Elements and the creative cycle that I was leaning into. It was my an inner guide, a stabilizing energy that helped me connect with the bigger picture – the greater cycles that are at play outside of me, in nature and in my life. I had already experienced the potential of aligning with the framework Creative cycle and was thrilled to be able to share this knowledge. 

Returning to Turin, at the foot of the mountains in Northern Italy where I now lived with my husband, it became apparent to myself, and the others around me that something had shifted. I can’t say if it was the result of being close to water, or the extended time I had spent with my family that, initially though uncomfortable, turned into a heartfelt closeness, the unexpected feeling of missing being with my husband Luca or the realisation that Singapore was truly no longer my home and that I was due to flow towards somewhere else.

As I continued to let my flow of thoughts, feelings and recollections settle, for the first time in years, we welcomed snow early in Turin on 15th December. As the sidewalks started to get submerged in white, I watched quietly from the window of my studio as Zion T’s song, Snow played in the background, and tears started to roll down my face.

In 2019, I was in denial – I told Luca each year during the coldest part of winter we would leave for the warmth and comfort of Singapore, since conveniently it often coincided with Lunar New year. We could plan to work remotely or be in another part of the world for projects.

In 2020, I started to realise I couldn’t really escape the entire of Winter. I started to try to prepare myself better – dressing appropriately, even attempting to enjoy part of what Winter brought – Hot Chocolate, Zabaione, and an opportunity to rest. Still, I struggled with the long, dark nights and felt lost and empty when we wouldn’t see the sun for days.

In 2021, I met Barbara, because she wasn’t vaccinated and couldn’t sit indoors, I began the process of ‘Wintering’, sitting outdoors in the frigid cold while sharing our ideas, dreams and fascinations. I started to realise the loneliness and void that plagued me in my adolescence and came back time to time wasn’t only a place of emptiness but the same kind of energy and space as the cold and darkness of Winter. I began to put in place rituals to empower me to see this temporal space as a space of potential.

in 2022, now, where I was finally, I had embraced winter. It wasn’t snow I was seeing, it was the Water I had so dearly missed, so far away, that I so longed to be close to, that was descending from the heavens, flowing to me. I cried, submerged in the realisation of it all. Together, we dropped what we were doing and drove to Parco Valentino to welcome the snow.

Snow on the pond at Parco Valentino

Looking back now, it is crystal clear  that everything that everything that had unfolded up to this point: my collaboration with Barbara, my participation in SOMBA, my response to the Ukraine war, the Women’s Circle at YogaUnion, being a part of Red School’s MLP, teaching in the Water while being surrounded by Water; it was all exactly what I had intended and asked for at the start of 2022: 

Life helping me reconcile the Yang of my 2021 with the missing Yin through the practice of Allowing. 

And the journey continues as we flow into 2023, the Year of the Yin Water Rabbit, which begins officially on 4 February 2023, an occurrence that hasn’t happened since 1963. I’m so curious and full of excitement for what this new watery year might bring.

💭 How did you connect with your dream in 2022? What revelations did you make about what you would like to leave in the world?

I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or email me 🙂 If you missed it you can read part 1 here. 

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Hi! I’m Wenlin Tan, a Productivity, Accountability & Mindfulness Coach with clients across Asia, Europe and the USA. I am passionate about supporting you to overcome self-doubt, procrastination and inner critic attacks to achieve your goals and live the dream of your dreams. If you want to learn how to overcome overwhelm and achieve your goals with ease, I’m here to help.

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