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Channeling, Reflecting and Restoring Oneself

Channel. As a verb this has various meanings. It can describe something trying to imitate or emulate something else. It can describe the attempt to connect with spirits. It can describe directing one’s energy somewhere. Here, I am going to try and channel the melancholy, growth and strength which I have developed over the course of this year into writing. I will then draw on how I found solace in meditation and Buddhist teachings, despite not identifying as a Buddhist myself, and how you can too (as loosely as you desire) to help guide your life when you are struggling.

Some of my New Year’s resolutions for last year included the following:

  • Drink more water

  • Have more debates with people about politics (including issues such as climate change)

  • Complete at least a 15-minute walk everyday

I categorised each and every one of my 17(!) resolutions based on priority and was adamant that I could complete them one by one. Little did I know that life would suggest otherwise.

At the start of the year, I had a serious eczema flare-up on my face and parts of my body. I felt extremely self-conscious of my appearance and felt scared to leave the house out of fear people would notice. I found comfort in watching videos online of people who were going through Topical Steroid Withdrawal (TSW), a condition which comes about from the overuse of steroid creams, resulting in the skin drying out and peeling off. Steroid creams were the norm for me growing up as I have had eczema since birth, and I concluded that I must be going through a mild version of TSW. Seeing that my experience was shared with others reassured me that I was not alone. The comfortable confines of my home were at times difficult to leave, and it was hard for me to look in the mirror, as I did not recognise myself, but I learnt to find peace in my weekly meditation classes where I could close my eyes and forget the world around me.

My skin issues spiralled at a time where my mental health also plummeted. My Grandad passed away in April, and this had a profound impact on me. One night when he was in hospital, my brother and I lay in bed reading a book called ‘The Pocket Book of Thich Nhat Hanh’. We read about the concept of ‘inter-being’, which broadly can be defined as the idea that each object cannot exist without the materials and processes it is made from. Thich Nhat Hanh uses the word ‘inter-being’ to describe a sheet of paper in the following passage:

‘If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact, nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look, we see the log-cutter who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see the wheat. We know that the logger cannot exist without his daily bread and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way, we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.’

I found comfort in these words, knowing that though my Grandad had died, I would not be here without him. My Grandad was an incredible man who was fluent in French and Spanish, a fervent spokesperson for social justice and equality, and a lover of microwaving ice cream (yes, you read that correctly). His spirit lives on in every aspect of my life, and when I graduate from University, I would like to channel the passion for social justice which he argued for into my career. Whilst I am not going to explore my frustrations with the world we live in today in this article, I do hope that people realise that often their personal struggles are political ones (as second wave feminism argued). My Grandad would often excitedly show me a coaster which he picked up in Spain that read:

Donde todos piensan igual nadie piensa mucho

Although there is some debate about the origin of this quotation (the coaster attributes it to Auguste Rodin while the Internet also cites it as Walter Lippmann), it captures the idea that if people believe that everything is equal, then no one is thinking enough.

I began 2022 with a lot of optimism, and whilst it was admittedly difficult to maintain as my world began to change, I still am trying to enter 2023 with a positive mindset. As someone who loves personal reflection, I will be excited to reflect again this time next year. Meditation and spirituality will continue to be a source of comfort for me, and I am excited to find my voice in volunteering for Leeds Student Radio, writing more articles, and through my artwork. I have realised that often as humans we seem to be addicted to reading about others’ suffering. Doomscrolling, sensationalism and a fascination with true crime seem to be a dominant force in society today. However, at times it is we are ourselves who are suffering, and often we do not make it known to others. I hope that if you are reading this and are suffering, you can find comfort in channelling your emotions in your own way.


Francesca Wang-Smith is an undergraduate student studying Communication and Media at the University of Leeds. Always teeming with a million and one ideas, she enjoys putting pen to paper to gather her thoughts. Her interests lie in meditation, sustainability, and dreaming about returning to visit Taiwan, where her mother is from. In her spare time, you can catch her deep diving into current affairs on Leeds Student Radio, rapidly scribbling down thoughts in her journal, collaging, and fangirling over every cat she sees… ever. She can be found on Instagram at @whatfransupto.

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