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Mindfulness, Meditation & Occupational Therapy w/ Dr. Alisa Chatprapachai | Artist of Life Ep. 5

Hi everyone! Welcome back to Lavendaire. Today’s video is another episode of Artist of Life, a series where we feature
real people who are actively creating their dream life. Today I’m so excited to have my dear friend
Alisa here with us. She goes by Dr. Alisa Chatpraprachai, and
she is a mental health, mindfulness, and wellness advocate who’s created the website
Calm Corner. An occupational therapist by trade, she’s worked with people from ages
0 to 97 with the goal of spreading mindful awareness in everyday life. Aileen: Hi Alisa! Alisa: Hi Aileen. How are you? Aileen: I’m so well. How are you doing? Alisa: I’m great. Aileen: Okay, great. So I want to talk to you about what you do
in your life, just the aura that you have because you’re
so calm and you’re just so welcoming, in general. So were you always like this? Where did it come from? Alisa: Right. I think as a child I was, you know, quiet,
reserved. But I wasn’t scared or shy. I grew up in Thailand for five years, when
I was five to ten. Then I moved back here and started middle school. So I think, with the Thai upbringing too, with the Thai culture, it has ingrained in
me to be calm. But I wasn’t as calm until more of the later years, like the super calm
where I’m aware that I’m calm. So it’s through meditation that I’ve been
more calm. Aileen: So can you talk about the challenges
that you’ve gone through that have kind of got you inspired to go into
mental health and meditation? Alisa: Right. I remember, especially the transition, when
I moved from Thailand to here, when I moved back here, that it was super
challenging. I would cry myself to sleep, cry to my mom, “Why don’t I have any friends?” So I knew how it felt, what it was like to be lonely and not really belong anywhere. No one else really looked like me, so that was difficult. I remember having a teacher who said, “If
you want a friend, be a friend.” I was like, “Okay.” So the next day–this was in eighth grade– I spotted a girl in the red jacket who’s having
lunch by herself, so I approached her and we’re still friends until this day. Aileen: Oh, that’s sweet. Alisa: Yeah. Aileen: Talk about your journey to meditation,
because I know you went on a crazy meditation course in Thailand. How did it start and what have you done so
far? Alisa: Okay, so all my life, I feel like I’ve
been through school, from kindergarten through my grad school to the doctorate degree. I didn’t really get a break, and I felt like that was really challenging,
so the moment that I started working, that’s when there was a lot of things that
wasn’t expected. I began to feel depressed and not really wanting to get out of bed. My contacts were still in my eyes. Not really taking care of myself. So I knew that something had to change. One day, I looked in the Thai newspaper and
I saw that there’s a 96 year old monk who’s going to be speaking at this temple–this
is where we’re at: Wat Padhammachart– that he’s going to come for Father’s Day and
talk about…give a dharma talk. So I came with my dad, and at that event,
he talked about the opening of the meditation course next month. So I’m like, “Huh. What is this?” I wasn’t sure, but I’ve had some experiences with meditation
when I was younger. I would spend summers with my grandma and
she would take me to a lot of temples. Aileen: Does your whole family meditate? Is it a cultural thing? Alisa: No, no. No one–we would maybe go on meditation retreats
for a week at the temple. And we call it–we were temporary nuns. We would wear all white and we couldn’t eat after noon, after noon
time. Aileen: Wow! Alisa: I started when I was nine. So we would go on this retreat and I remembered just being silent and just experiencing that
sense of calm at a young age. I still, when my grandma was still alive,
would go back every summer and go to the temples, but not really meditating,
just being there in that culture. Part of that meditation journey…I enrolled
in the course, not really knowing, because it’s a six-month course. Aileen: That’s long. Alisa: Yeah, and Luangphor Viriyang Sirintharo,
he’s the monk–he’s 97 now– who created the course. Through 40, 50 years of his journey as a monk and developing that willpower and the course,
he’s spread compassion and meditation through his teachings. There’s six or seven locations in Canada that’s
taught in English. There’s 300 locations, and there’s three in
the US. With the LA one, it opened up in January 2015. I enrolled without knowing if I could complete
the course. It was six months. It was on the weekends. I would be working full-time and having to
dedicate time here, so I didn’t think I could finish it. I struggled because I didn’t really know anyone. There was around 200 people in the course. I was the youngest one. I couldn’t really relate with anyone. I would sleep in my car during lunch because I was so tired. But then, once, an older sister reached out
to me and had me help out at the IT department there. I was able to find a more sense of belonging, and from then,
my meditation family became my family. Aileen: That’s so nice. So can you explain: how do you meditate? What is your process like? Alisa: Okay, so my process…After the six
months course, we also did our final practicum, our final exam in Doi Inthanon which is in
Thailand. That included a five-day hike at the highest mountain in Thailand. I knew that what I took from the course was
that having a word or mantra, that is a beginning
towards a well-practiced meditation. So having–if your positioning is good, you
have your mantra, the word, and then you go on from there. Things will be easier, smoother. That’s how– if you have a strong foundation, you can then
develop into a stronger branch. Aileen: That’s what I thought was interesting. When we were talking about meditation, before this video–basically the way Alisa
meditates, she focuses on one word, right? And it’s a Thai word that means enlightenment? Alisa: Put-toh. It’s a Pali word, actually. Aileen: Oh, right. Alisa: Yes, but it doesn’t have to be that
word. It could be any word. Even the instructor–any word would do. But you just have to focus on that word. Even when I’m driving, drinking Starbucks,
or walking my dog, I keep that word in my mind and I feel like it’s taught me to be really
conscious. Aileen: That’s your mantra. Alisa: That’s my mantra. Aileen: Yeah, which is cool, because anyone
can incorporate that. You can pick a word that’s your mantra and meditate anywhere. You don’t have to be sitting down. You can be walking, going about your life. And just bringing your mind back to that word can help calm you down. Alisa: Right, and you can do it while standing,
lying down, any position. Aileen: Yeah, because I think most people
think, “Meditation is so hard. I have to sit down for an hour.” It can be more simple than that. Alisa: Right. So you asked what my practice looks like. Ever since my grandma (who’s very dear to me) passed away in April
2016 last year, I knew that we can’t take life not seriously. You have to be intentional. When she passed away, that’s when I really committed to a daily
practice. So far it’s been very good and I make time for it, the sitting meditation or the
walking meditation, to do at least 30 minutes per day. Aileen: Okay. In the morning? Or at night? Alisa: For me, right now, it’s been whenever
I can find the time. I’d like to be more consistent, preferably in the morning. The monk Luangphor Viriyang said that the best hour–it’s kind of like golden hour–it’s
4:00 AM to 5:00 AM. Aileen: Wow! Alisa: Yeah, I know. Not a lot of people do it, but if you can
do it–I think part of the belief is that it’s very quiet
in that hour. The party-goers go back to bed now. The early risers haven’t woken up yet. Aileen: That’s very interesting. Alisa: So, the golden hour. Aileen: I mean, I’m a night owl and I stay
up–I mean, I’ve stayed up til like 4:00, 5:00, 6:00 to work. The reason I used to like staying up that
late is because it’s so quiet. Nothing else is going on. There’s no distractions. I understand that, why you would want to meditate during that
time. Since we’re on the topic of meditation, how about you give some tips for beginner
meditators? Because I know a lot of people want to get into meditation,
so maybe share some quick tips. Alisa: Sure. Part of the few tips which I’ve gained from
taking the course is that it doesn’t have to be thirty minutes when
you start. It could be five minutes. But five minutes three times a day, that’s
fifteen minutes already. And if you do that every day–for a month,
that’s a lot of minutes. Once you do that, the goal is that you accumulate willpower. You become more patient. You become more compassionate. I definitely saw a change in me in the way that I’m more calm when I deal with my family,
because I live with my parents. Dealing with family members and brother and
siblings, it can be tough. And so I felt like I saw a change in me and
then a change in how I do my job as an occupational therapist. I’m devoted and present, and I really enjoy
what I do. I really believed in the course. I got my mom to join the course, so she was the second class who took the course. Aileen: It sounds like meditation has really
enhanced your life overall, your personal and your work life, which is
amazing. I think can benefit everyone. You did mention occupational therapy. Do you want to talk about what you do and what do you love about it? Alisa: Some people may not know, but an occupational
therapist–called OT for short– is a profession that deals with the everyday
activities. Occupation as in whatever occupies your mind or the daily activity. The moment you get up, brushing your teeth, putting your clothes
on to driving to drinking tea to skiing, right? Any activity. If you have some sort of barrier–it could
be physical or emotional or mental barriers–we look at that and we
try to help you live your dream life. If they want to go back to their job or to
their community, we help them to get there. Aileen: Is a lot of it mental, you think? Alisa: Yes. Even though a traditional OT may work at a
hospital setting or clinics or schools or home base, a lot of it, we look at the
physical aspect. But a lot of it is mental too: if they don’t feel like it, they’re not motivated. How do you meet them at your level so you can address some of those goals that
would bring them happiness? Aileen: So it sounds like it’s so seamless
with the meditation and the mindfulness and being present, with your job. It’s interesting how you found that perfect
spot for you to do your work. Can you expand on what exactly you do in your
job? Alisa: Sure. As an occupational therapist, I, right now,
work three jobs with three different agencies. But I chose that way because I like the flexibility and the freedom. There may be a lot of driving, but I’ve learned
to listen to podcasts and inspirational talks. So that’s fine, but I get to work with, first of all, kids. And kids that I work with, they may have anxiety
or PTSD or ADHD. So how do you consider that and then work
with them on emotional regulation? How to be calm and focused during homework
or play or in their daily routines? Where I’m at, I’m the first OT and there’s
a lot of advocacy that goes on there too. So you’re like your own boss, in a way. But we were given, or I was given one office. With that one office–and if you know about
OTs and pediatric OT, we usually have a gym and swings and all that fun stuff. But here, there’s one office. So as part of my job, we need to be creative too. So I’m like, “Okay, we’re going to use the
hallway. We’re gonna go outside. We’re gonna use the elevators as the handball
court. We’re going to use the roll-y chair to get
their sensory input so they can focus and do more in the tasks that they need to
do.” That’s one example with working with kids. But working with kids, you’re also working
with parents and caregivers and teachers, and different disciplines. There’s that luxury that you need to be able
to work with others, too. And for my older adults, in the home, I meet
them where they’re at. They’re in their natural setting, and they’re
too weak to go to the outpatient clinics, right? So I go into the home and it’s using the resources
that they have. Sometime we use canned goods as weights. Or we try to work on the fine motor, their endurance, so we may do coloring. I can bring in meditation, we can do some
breathing. I feel that I can bring in my passions–mindfulness,
meditation–into my job. Aileen: And I’m sure you’re enlightening them
as well and enhancing their life. That’s a really fun job because you’re actually
helping other people with their life, living the life that they want to live. Alisa: One of the caregivers, she was telling
me, “You know, out of all the therapists or the different disciplines who come to visit
our home, you’re different.” She was like, “Do you practice meditation?” She asked me that and I was very surprised. She was saying how I was able to reach her
mother, who’s the client, to a certain level that no one else could
reach to her. Aileen: Yeah, because I feel like most therapists
sound very science-y. It’s very surface-level, right? I feel like, what you do, you bring your whole
self to help others. And with the meditation, mindfulness background,
that helps a lot. Alisa: Yeah, definitely. Therapeutic use of self, that’s what we learned
in OT school. But that comes into play a lot. Whether with kids, or with me and you, or
strangers, you need to present…or how do you relate
to others and make them do what you want in a–not in a manipulative
way. Aileen: You make them feel comfortable to
do what they… Alisa: What they want to do. Make it fun. Aileen: That’s lovely. So I know, outside of your work and personal
life, you also are on a mental health board. Alisa: Yes. My dad used to work for the Orange County
Supervisor Michelle Steele, and he notified me of this opportunity that
we can get involved at the local level. And he knew that I was super interested in
mental health, and based on my personal experience and also working with
others too, I knew that I wanted to dedicate time for this. During that time, I was still doing my full-time
job as an OT and taking the meditation course, so I couldn’t
imagine- Aileen: That’s busy. Alisa: Yeah, I was busy already. I couldn’t imagine dedicating time to this
too. But I applied and was appointed as a board
member there, so I began to get more involved. I didn’t really know anything and I was the
youngest one so there was challenges too. Another opportunity related to that came a
few months after I joined, in April 2015. They had an opportunity for us, the mental
health board, to represent at the state level. I volunteered to go and I was able to learn
more about what the other mental health boards are doing across California. There are thirty-something counties so were able to meet, and from that experience–I
just came back from another meeting in San Diego, and they were
very impressed with how I can deal with and willing to work, just to be there and
show up. And they appointed me 2nd Vice President of California’s Association
of Local Behavioral Health and Commission, that’s the full name. It made me realize that we are needed. Our generation, millennials, we are needed. We need to sit at that table to advocate and
bring ourselves. Even though we know nothing, we need to fake
it. We just need to be there and just be present,
be helpful. Aileen: Just show up, right? Alisa: Just show up. Aileen: Just join the club. Alisa: That’s 80% and we need to do more of
that. I see, at the county level or at the state level, it’s more important
that now is the time, because if not now, when? It’s gonna be never. I know it might be uncomfortable. That’s how I felt. I felt alone. I felt–”Why am I doing this? Why am I spending time?” But it’s so important. Aileen: I think that’s awesome, because you
take the time to do all this extra work and actually get involved at the county and
the state level which a lot of people don’t think about. A lot of people don’t even realize that they
can do that, that they can contribute in some sort of way. So that’s really cool. Alisa: The older people, they’re going to
be retiring. We need to make our voices heard. Aileen: Yeah. If you really care about a certain cause or
you want to make some change in your community, there are ways to do it. There are ways to get involved, which is awesome. Alisa: For me too, with the Thai American
community which is near and dear to my heart, it helps that my parents are
involved in the community and they give back and they donate their time. So I’ve gained that aspect and I’m able to
keep up my Thai because of the opportunities that came up,
whether as an emcee or to help out or to the meditation community. There’s different ways to be involved. Aileen: Can I ask you: what does your dream
life look like? Maybe fast forward five years. Maybe you’re living it now! I don’t know. What does it look like? Alisa: That’s always a hard question because
usually, I’m an in-the-moment kind of person and if I think too far ahead, I may get anxious. I might look back and get sad about things. But part of my dream life, I think just bringing
myself into everyday situations because to have a happy future, it starts
with today. I’m like, “Okay, the things that I can control today,
what can I ensure that I’m going to be calm and at peace?” Doing my meditation daily, walking my dogs,
doing yoga. Those are the things that bring me joy. Or connecting, talking to people. And I started a website: Calm Corner, which
I’ve been devoting more time. I feel like blogging, having that outlet really
helps to ensure that I’m happy and content, even though I don’t feel like it. I can make myself do it and I know that I
feel better. If I can inspire just one person, just one
reader to read, my job is done for that day. I think having–definitely devoting time
to my own self care because if I can take care of myself, then
I can take care of others. I can be there, present 100%. That’s my philosophy. Aileen: I love that. That’s a huge one: take care of yourself in
order to take care of others. I like that it’s so simple. You just want to be able to be present every
day, feel joy in the little things like yoga and
walking your dog. Alisa: Right. And with Calm Corner, too, it might grow into
something else. But right now, I’m trying to see if I can
create a community out of it, or if I can lead seminars or support groups
for people who may feel lonely or left out because I know how that feels to have no one
really understand you. I feel like I’ve been through that and I have
this heart of compassion that I really wanted to help people feel that
they belong. Aileen: So what would be your best advice
to someone who’s out there who isn’t necessarily at the place you’re at? Maybe their life is a mess and they do feel
lonely. I don’t know, maybe they’re just not centered
and calm and peaceful. What’s your advice for someone like that? Alisa: I think: Turning ideas into “I do”. We may have a lot of ideas. We may be thinking in our head a lot, which
is okay, but to a certain level, we need to turn that into action: whether
writing it down, making a plan, joining Aileen’s Lavendaire Artist of Life. I do that, too, to help me feel that “Okay, these are my goals and I’m gonna work
towards that.” Really, following what your interests are. And maybe right now it’s not– you can’t afford that lifestyle, but just
following what your interests are. Maybe you can’t do a full-time job of what
you want to do, but maybe you can volunteer or talk to people or learn more about what
they’re doing. What is it that you want to do? Aileen: There’s always ways to get involved
and do what you want to do in different ways. It doesn’t have to be your job, but like you
said, volunteer or something on the side, right? Alisa: Right. Reaching out to people. Aileen: And I also love that line: Turning
ideas into “I do”. Did you come up with that? Alisa: No. My friend, Chaplain Seeda, he’s my friend
who I met at the meditation course. He told me that, so he’s really helpful. Aileen: I love that. Well, thank you so much for today’s interview. I feel like everyone will really enjoy this. You guys out there, make sure you check out
Alisa. All her links are in the description below. And comment below with your favorite takeaway from today’s interview. Also, we have a next video coming up: Alisa’s going to share a few of her favorite
things, so please watch that video. Links are all below. Thanks so much for watching. This was Artist of Life by Lavendaire, and I’ll see you all next time. Bye! Alisa: Bye!

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