Enjoy the life-changing benefits of increased awareness without hours of knee pain, restlessness or boredom while sitting cross-legged with closed eyes
I am what you might call me a spiritual late bloomer. I wasn’t always a meditator; I was a more of a thinker. The touchy-feely stuff was never really up my alley.
Many years ago, as I prepared to let go of my marriage and all sense of where I might be headed in life, I remember sheepishly asking an ordained Buddhist nun if she would teach me to meditate. I bought a cushion and launched myself into my new practice with some devotion. I read a lot of Buddhist philosophy and I gave my thinking brain plenty to go through complex visualized meditations.
But something in me resisted being completely open to what felt like the scarier, ‘woo-woo’ part of meditation, the part where I would actually let go of controlling my experience with my rational brain.
When I eventually worked up the courage to take the plunge with a 10-day Vipassana course, I understood what I’d been missing. I stepped through a door that I didn’t know was there and made friends with a part of myself I’d been keeping prisoner for a long time. That very first course gave me the loving slap upside the head I needed to finally realize, 7 years after my divorce, that I could give myself permission to look for a new partner.
Strictly speaking, it led me straight to my future husband. I didn’t have to look far; I found him hiding in plain sight, right there in my own kitchen. Meditation helped me to listen with total clarity to my gut instinct which was telling me that risking a romantic relationship with my long-time roommate was a good move rather than a crazy impulse that I would later regret.
Before meditation, I had no contact with or faith in my gut instincts. I was all about thinking through my problems. Potential solutions were limited to two options:
Either figure it out, or suck it up.
I have since expanded my options in a very liberating way by checking in with my gut instinct. I’ve learned that everything my gut tells me from a place of meditative calm is something I should pay attention to. My gut instinct is the voice of my ‘higher self’, my inner being — the one that is connected to everything. It’s the part of me that knows better than my smarty-pants ego what’s good for me and what’s not.
Increased mindfulness is worth everything you put into it. When you can access your inner compass with total confidence knowing that it’s pointing you in the right direction, you feel a kind of security and power that nothing else could ever give you.
That said, I remember how I felt in the years I was not quite ready to jump in to meditation with both feet. I understand that many people just aren’t able to start a traditional meditation practice. If that sounds like you, you can still make significant strides in awareness with these 3 techniques:
1. Take one conscious breath
This comes from author and spiritual teacher Eckardt Tolle and his book The Power of Now, a huge source of inspiration for me. Tolle suggests just taking a single breath and allowing your attention to rest completely on the feeling of the air going in and coming out. When I first heard him say this, I thought it was so brilliant and so obvious that I almost laughed out loud.
Anyone can do this practice and it doesn’t feel like meditating at all. It’s more like dipping your toe in the water. You don’t have to set aside an hour or light incense. You don’t have to close your eyes or sit in any special posture. You can do it any time of the day, alone or in company.
When you’ve done it once, you might even feel like doing it again, and I say: Why not?
By the way, this is not the same as the advice you may have heard to “take a deep breath” when you’re feeling stressed. That’s a great practice, but it’s about engaging your diaphragm to activate your relaxation response through your parasympathetic nervous system. You’re mindfully changing your breath to make it work for you.
When you take a conscious breath, you just watch; not making it deeper or slower, not changing anything at all.
When you’re observing something simple like your own breath, you get out of your head, even if just for those few seconds it takes to breathe in and out. You are also reconnecting with your gut, that repository of inner wisdom. The more often you do it, the more you can stay in touch with a veritable pipeline of trustworthy guidance from your higher self — your very own inner life coach!
2. Say 5 Positive Things
Researcher John Gottman says that it takes 5 positive interactions to make up for each negative one. If you have a spouse, kids, or coworkers, you have a perfect opportunity to practice being aware of how often you say positive or negative things and to see how that affects the quality of your relationships.
The goal is to say 5 nice things before you allow yourself to offer a criticism or a correction of any kind. It will take some practice, but it’s going to make a big change in your home or work environments.
The ideal type of positive interaction is one where you offer praise in front of someone who matters to them. Think about it: The only thing nicer than getting a compliment is getting a compliment when someone else is there to hear it! If awards were given out behind closed doors, they wouldn’t have quite the same impact, would they?
Studies have shown how a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions can make all the difference between couples who stay together and those more likely to end in separation or divorce.
As a holistic health practitioner, I liken this practice to adding healthy bacteria to your gut. Your ‘gut instincts’ also need to be nourished in order to be healthy and to speak to you with clarity, so feed them healthy choices of words and attitudes. With this 5-to-1 rule as a guide, you can start reaping the benefits in your marriage, family or workplace almost immediately. You might even notice a side-benefit of saying nicer things to yourself and being able to silence your own inner critic.
3. Use a Gratitude Journal
According to psychologists, human minds are wired to focus on negative things much more than on positive ones. This is a left-over survival mechanism from our animal days when it was more important to your well-being to be vigilant for predators who may want to eat you than to reminisce about your last excellent meal.
Using a gratitude journal is a great way to force yourself to spend a few moments every day recognizing the positive things in your environment.
Some days I’m all about what’s missing, what I didn’t get done, what’s left on my bucket list. On those days, I remind myself that I’m grateful for indoor plumbing and not to be living on a flood plain in the path of a hurricane.
Oprah Winfrey says that creating a gratitude journal changed her life. I don’t know about you, but I’ll have some of what she’s having! That’s why I recommend making it a daily habit to write down 5 things you feel grateful for, whether they’re things that happened that day or just things you feel aware of at that moment.
When you focus on things that are working well for you, you start to see opportunities in front of you instead of letting them pass by unnoticed. You pay more attention to them because you’re unconsciously on the lookout for things to write about in your journal.
The more good things you see, the more good things appear.
The real magic happens when you allow yourself to truly bask in the high-frequency emotions associated with gratitude — it raises your vibration and actually starts to attract more good things around you. This isn’t a manifestation exercise; you’re not supposed to visualize anything you want. Instead, just be consciously aware of the abundance already around you. The more you do that, the more space you open up for even more goodness to show up and knock on the door.
The harmonious vibration of gratitude provides a great soundtrack for listening to your gut. It makes it more likely that the message your gut is trying to send you will resonate with you. You want to resonate with your gut instinct to help you learn to rely on it for guidance. Your higher self can’t be heard very clearly over the din of resentment or self-doubt. This simple gratitude practice will help to keep you and your gut on the same wavelength. Check out my Gratitude Journal Template below to get started.
Resonance is pure science, it’s about vibrations that can be measured and quantified as a frequency. Vibrating objects can set other objects vibrating sympathetically at a distance.
This stuff is not woo-woo at all. At the quantum physics level of reality, you and I and everyone you know are nothing but trillions of spinning sub-atomic particles and empty space. Hold your little finger under a powerful enough microscope and you can see this for yourself. Awareness is just one of three practices that are very important for fast-tracking your personal growth. The others are acknowledgement and acceptance… but I’ll save those for a future article. For now, try these 3 simple practices for 2 weeks. I think you’ll be amazed at the changes you’ll see in your world.
Template for a Gratitude Journal
There is lots of research to support the benefits of gratitude. They include feeling happier, more optimistic and having improved relationships just to name a few. A gratitude journal is the fastest easiest way I know to boost your overall wellbeing and specifically, to raise your vibration so that you’re more likely to attract more of the things you feel grateful for already!
Here’s what Oprah Winfrey has to say about her experience with daily journaling on gratitude:
I know for sure that appreciating whatever shows up for you in life changes your personal vibration. You radiate and generate more goodness for yourself when you’re aware of all you have and not focusing on your have-nots…I’ve learned from experience that if you pull the lever of gratitude every day, you’ll be amazed at the results. (read more here)
How to do it
It’s a good idea to set aside a few minutes at the same time every day. See if you prefer doing this in the morning to provide a boost to your day, or before bedtime to get more restful sleep. You can even pause during the day to record something you’re grateful for if that works best for you.
You can write or type directly onto this template or use any kind of paper notebook, diary or journal. Some people like to have something fancy to inspire them, others prefer to keep a tiny log in their pocket or purse. There’s no wrong way to do this except to put it off!
One of my clients recently included mention of journaling in her comments about our 1:1 work together:
It was deeper and more emotional than I expected. I was skeptical about the tapping (EFT: Emotional Freedom Technique), but I actually found it really powerful. Also I didn’t imagine for a second the gratitude journal would make any difference…but it did. (S.W.)
I hope it will make a difference for you, too!
Start Your Gratitude Journal Now!
|Sample Prompts For You (Write Down Your Answers):|
|I’m so grateful for…|
|I feel lucky that I…|
|The best part of today was…|
|I’m happy about…|
When you feel ready for next steps, connect with me and learn how I can support you in moving forward to make the rest of your life something you feel grateful for.
You may also enjoy reading Living a Higher Vibration for Better Health and Greater Purpose by Sam Glory