- Be willing to be vulnerable.
- Assume the best of others.
- Don’t give unsolicited advice. (Ask if it would be helpful.)
- You can ask for anything without guilt, and you can say no to anything without guilt.
- Allow the power of the pause.
- Keep everything you hear completely confidential.
Body Meditation Practices
Sit Spot Meditation (or Walk)
This activity, done regularly, can relax your nervous system and help you practice moving your attention from your thoughts to your senses, making space for your Inner Wisdom to arise and helping you notice what it’s saying. Spending time in nature can also help us reconnect with our inspiration and intuition, and doing it in the same spot over and over helps us build a relationship to place that can be quite meaningful.
Find a place where you can be in or observe nature: a park or greenspace down the street from your home; a yard; a patio, porch, or stoop; or even a window.
Set aside time to sit in this spot in stillness and silence (no music, podcasts, phone calls, etc.). As you sit, bring your attention to each of the five sense in turn, spending 1-5 minutes with each, noticing what you see, what you hear, what you touch/feel, what you smell, and what you taste.
After focusing on each sense individually, you can combine them, seeing if you can notice what you’re seeing and hearing at the same time, or what you’re smelling and sensing.
Important: When you notice that you’re no longer in touch with one of your senses (ie, you’re lost in thoughts), just gently bring your attention back to sight, sounds, sensations, smells, or tastes. Do this as many times as needed and remember that the mind is always going to wander—that’s what it’s designed to do. The purpose here is to strengthen your ability to bring your attention back to the present moment by doing it over and over and over.
Inner Wisdom Ramble
This activity is a way to practice hearing and following your Inner Wisdom. It can also reduce stress, help you practice shifting your attention from your brain to your body, expand your body communication “vocabulary”, and be quite fun.
This exercise is ideally done in a natural area, such as a large yard, neighborhood greenspace, or regional park. If you can’t make it to a park or greenspace, you can do this on quiet city or suburban streets.
Before you start walking, pause for a moment and be still and silent. If you can do so safely, close your eyes. Bring your attention to your body, noticing what sensations you feel and where. Once you’re aware of your body sensations, physically turn your body in a slow circle and notice if there’s a direction that’s calling you. You may feel it as elements of your “Yes Body” when you face a certain way, or other positive sensations associated with a particular direction, or it may just be felt sense of knowing. Some people find it helpful to stick their hands out in front of them as they turn to get a stronger sense of which direction their body wants to move in.
Once you’ve felt which way you want to go, wander in that direction. Stop periodically to check back in with your body and see what direction is pulling you now. Go wherever your body curiosity leads. Stop and investigate anything that calls your attention as you wander, and switch directions any time your curiosity wanes or you’re not sure where to go next.
Keep bringing your attention back into your body when you notice that it’s wandered (ie, most of your attention is with what you’re thinking). At first you may need to stop, turn in a circle, and listen for which direction is pulling you every time you change direction. Over time, you’re likely to stay connected with your body more consistently so that you can feel and follow its pull moment-to-moment.
Important: When you notice that you’re no longer paying attention to your body (ie, you’re paying attention to your thoughts, worries, plans, etc.), just gently bring your attention back to what you feel in your core (chest and abdomen area). You’ll likely need to do this many times, but that’s fine because the goal isn’t to quiet your mind or perfect your focus. Rather, the intention is to build the “muscle” of moving your attention from your thoughts to your body by “exercising” it over and over and over.
Guided Body Scan Meditations
You can break any of these down into smaller increments:
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15q-N-_kkrU (30 minutes) (I recommend doing this one first. Use the audio and ignore the video.)
- http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7650123 (8 minutes)
- https://soundcloud.com/dharma-gus/15-min-body-scan-augusta-mbsr (15 minutes)
- https://www.tarabrach.com/guided-meditation-body-scan-living-presence-11-min/ (11 minutes)
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOm6dhob_tw (24 minutes) (again, you can use the audio and ignore the video)
Yes vs. No Body Self Reflection
This reflection helps you get in the habit of paying more attention to your body; incorporate its intelligence into your understanding of events; and become more fluent in how it communicates.
Pause briefly 1-3 times a day (the more frequently you do this, the more information you’ll get and the easier it is to remember) to answer the following questions.
Be as specific as possible and take brief notes so that you can begin to notice patterns:
- In the time period since your last reflection, when did you notice elements of your Yes Body? What sensations did you feel, and where?
- What’s your best sense of what your body was saying yes to?
- In the same time period, when did you notice elements of your No Body? What sensations did you feel, and where?
- What’s your best sense of what your body was saying no to?
Once before we meet next, review your notes and ask:
- What patterns are you noticing? Is there any action you want to take as a result of what you’re observing?
Vibrant, Alive, and Fulfilled Exercise
(Adapted from Reiner Lomb’s The Boomerang Approach)
To help you discover patterns in what you love; what brings you joy and contentment; and what reconnects you to your true nature.
Set aside some quiet, uninterrupted time for this exercise. You can take as much time as you need, but 2 or 3 hours should be enough. Feel free to break up the time and do it over 2 or 3 days; you might come up with more ideas if you do.
Reflect on your life and try to remember about 10 moments or experiences in your life when you felt vibrant, alive, and fulfilled. The moments may have been short or they may have lasted days, weeks, or even months.
Try not to concern yourself with what others thought of these experiences, or how big or worthy you think they are. They might be small or feel inconsequential, but they can provide great clues. What’s important isn’t how big the events were, but how big the feelings you had while you experienced them.
Write down each of the experiences and include answers to these questions:
- When was it?
- Where were you?
- With whom were you?
- What were you doing?
- How were you feeling and why?
- Can you remember any other detail that is significant to you?
Make sure you are doing the exercise during times when you are relaxed and not under time pressure. You might want to use deep breathing, meditation, yoga, a nature walk, listening to music, or any other activity that helps you to be relaxed and centered before you do the exercise.
When you have finished, let it sit for a day or two, then read the 10 stories to yourself, and prioritize according to their importance to you from 1 to 10. If you think of any additional times in your life when you felt vibrant, alive, and fulfilled, feel free to add them to the list.
Look for patterns among your 10 stories. Bring them to our next session.
People You Admire
Make a list of 5-10 people you admire. They may be people you know personally or not. For each person, list what it is you admire about them. More than accomplishments, we’re looking for the traits, qualities, or abilities you look up to in them. Bring your list to our next session.
This exercise is designed to help you identify and appreciate your strengths and contributions.
Take a few minutes at the end of each day and create a list of:
- Good things you’ve done
- What you contributed to other beings
- Any positive impact you had on the world
Add at least 15 things to the list each day.
Remember that we often miss our strengths by setting our standards too high. Think small here. If you did something positive, you did good. If you made someone else’s day even marginally better, you contributed to them. If you took care of yourself so you could contribute to others, it had a positive impact. Keep in mind that you won’t be able to see most of the positive impact you have on others, so if you even think it might have been helpful to someone else, or the world at large, add it to the list.
Expand your Neverending List of what you did well to include previous contributions to the world.
Reflecting back on your life, make a list of:
- Good things you’ve done;
- Things you’ve contributed to other people and/or beings; and
- Positive impact you’ve made on the world.
Dig deep. Consider different phases in your life. Keep in mind that we don’t see the vast majority of our impact, so get curious about what you may have overlooked, been unaware of at the time, or not given yourself credit for previously. Pay particular attention to the impact of the strengths you identified so far.
Seeing Your Gifts from a Different Perspective
(Adapted from Barbara Sher’s Wishcraft)
Our biggest strengths are often the hardest for us to see because they come to us so naturally. This exercise is designed to help you get an outside perspective on your gifts so that you can see and appreciate them more clearly.
Think of three friends, family members, or colleagues whom you trust and who know you well. They don’t need to know everything about you, but they need to have significant experience with you. It can be helpful to invite people who know you in different contexts. Ask each person to spend 10-15 minutes helping you with a brief exercise.
First, ask the person to spend 3 minutes talking about what they like or appreciate about you; what’s good about you; and what makes you unique in their eyes. Your role during this time is to listen and be silent.
Ask them to be as specific as possible. Explain that saying, “You’re a great person” is wonderful, but not so helpful for your present purposes. Things like, “You make me feel better when I’m sad, or “You’re always willing to help,” or “You make unique connections” or “You can put any idea into action,” or, “You’re really good at knowing exactly which pillow will make a room look great” are much more helpful.
Remind them as well that this is not a time to point out areas for improvement. That’s not the purpose of this exercise. So invite them to only speak about the positive and leave any criticism, no matter how constructive, for another day.
Record or write down what they say word-for-word as closely as you can. You want to be able to come back to this information and remember it as accurately as possible.
For some of us it may be difficult to listen to praise for 3 minutes without responding. Resist the urge to say thank you. Resist the urge to object to what they’re saying, either out loud or in your head. See if you can give yourself permission to believe that what they’re saying is true. Accept the praise and let it soak in. See if you can even let yourself enjoy it.
When your friend or loved one is finished, switch roles and do the same for them. Go through this process with at least 3 people.
At the end, make a list of the strengths, abilities, and gifts that were recognized in you. Circle the ones that you feel best about and like to use the most.
Tracking Synchronicities, Dreams, and Help from Nature
Often clues about our calling are hidden within us and around us, but we aren’t noticing them. In addition to paying attention to the body and reflecting on ourselves and our past, we can get some valuable information by paying attention to our subconscious (dreams) and how the world is responding to us (synchronicity and nature).
The idea here is to set the intention to notice and track these three things. Record any of the following that you experience in your journal:
- Circumstances or events that appear meaningfully related yet lack a causal connection [according to Carl Jung, who coined the term]
- When events in your mind have some connection to the outside world without causing them
- Recurring dreams
- Particularly vivid or memorable dreams
- Dreams that depict something that then happens in waking life
Help from nature
- Repeated experiences with a particular species
- Noteworthy interactions with animals or other elements of nature
- Unusual animal behavior
- Anything else you observe or experience in the natural world that feels significant
There’s no need to draw conclusions from any of these—just record what they are. Meaning might or might not become clear as time goes on.