- 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.
Yes Body Image Search
Browse images in magazines or online (Unsplash.com, Pinterest.com, Instagram.com, etc.) and notice which bring up elements of your Yes Body. Put these images together in a folder or collage. Add any themes you notice to your Yes List.
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.
Purpose Exploration and Themes
Step 1: Explore Purpose
Getting clear on our purpose requires tapping into our full selves. The following inquiries are designed to help you access your head (including left and right brain), heart, and body as you consider the question of your purpose.
Do the following exercises at your leisure, in different locations and times. You don’t need to do all of them, so pick the ones that feel interesting, fun, or beneficial to you.
Stream of Consciousness Writing
Find a place where you won’t be disturbed and set a timer for 20-30 minutes. Write anything that comes to mind on the theme of purpose, stream-of-consciousness style, until the timer goes off. Don’t worry about how trivial or silly or nonsensical what you write is. Your goal is not to have a well-thought-out statement at the end; this is purely about exploration and self contact. Keep your pen moving the whole time—don’t let it stop until the timer goes off. If needbe, write “I don’t know what to write” over and over until something else comes.
You can also do this for a shorter period of time and without a theme as a good warm-up for any of the other exercises.
Spend some time answering the following questions:
- If you were a superhero, what would your special power be?
- What would be your name?
- What class of villains would you fight?
- What would your tagline be?
Once you have a good sense of your superhero alter ego, write a story about one of its adventures as it saves the day. Have fun with it—exaggerate, give yourself creative license to shape reality however you want, and really play up your heroic capabilities. You don’t need to share this with anyone unless you want to.
Alternatively, draw a comic strip of one of your adventures.
- Write about the following questions, stream-of-consciousness style. You don’t have to write about all of them. Pick the ones that interest you most:
- What impact do you want to have on the world?
- What do you want to be remembered for after you’re gone?
- If you had a magic wand and could make one change to the world, what would it be?
- Which traits or values is it most important to you that your children possess?
- If you were to open a newspaper, which types of stories would get you the most agitated or upset?
- What one thing does the world need more of?
- Who inspires you? What is it about them that inspires you?
- What type of suffering in the world most troubles your heart?
- What happened that made you change the way you see the world?
- What injustice infuriates you?
- What types of articles do you find yourself posting on Facebook?
- What people, places, things, or situations melt your heart?
- What types of suffering did you feel or witness as a child?
- Whom do you respect most in this world? What about them do you respect? What do they have in common?
- Whom or what do you love immediately and without thinking about it?
- When have you taken actions or made decisions that in retrospect surprised you or seemed uncharacteristic?
- Are you noticing any patterns or themes? What feels most important to you in what you’ve written so far?
You’ll need to get help from a friend or family member for this one. Sit down with them in a comfortable place and set a timer for 15 minutes. Use a phone or tape recorder to record the session.
Your friend or family member starts by asking you: “What is important to you?” You answer with anything that comes to you. When you finish your answer, your friend says, “Thank you.” They then ask the exact same question again, in the same exact words. You answer again. They say “thank you,” and they then they ask again. They keep repeating the question and you keep answering over and over again for 15 minutes.
Don’t plan your answers ahead of time. This exercise works best if you use it as an opportunity to see what arises each time the question is asked. If you ever get stumped, ask your friend to repeat the question and try again.
Try to avoid giving a monologue or explaining your answers. This allows time for the question to be asked many times.
When you’re done, switch roles and ask your friend the repeating question for 15 minutes. After the exercise, listen to the recording and make a note of your answers.
Head, Heart, and Body
Write (or sketch or paint or sculpt or build) about your response to these questions:
- What does your head have so say about your purpose?
- What does your heart say about your purpose?
- What does your gut say about your purpose?
Are you noticing any patterns or themes? What feels most important to you in what you’ve generated so far?
For the next two weeks, pause 2-3 times a day (ideally once in the late morning, once in the late afternoon, and once in the evening) and take a few minutes to ask yourself the following questions. Take brief notes so you can begin to notice patterns:
- What sensations do I notice in my body when I feel a sense of meaning or fulfillment? When, in the time period since my last reflection, did I feel any of those sensations?
- In the same time period, when did something touch my heart? (In other words, when did I feel a sense of compassion, grief, outrage, etc.)?
- When was I moved to take action on behalf of someone or something other than myself?
Once a week, take some time to read through what you’ve recorded and ask yourself:
- What do these things have in common?
- What feels most important in what I’ve identified so far?
- What am I learning about what’s meaningful to me?
Step 2: Identify Purpose Themes
After taking a break from exploring purpose through the above exercises, read back through what you wrote and make a note of any patterns or themes that you notice. Also add any ideas, even if they aren’t repeated, that feel particularly important to you.
Make a list of these patterns and themes and bring them with you to our next session.
Read through your purpose themes. Give yourself some time to sit and reflect on them (or perhaps walk and reflect on them).
- Which purpose themes feel most essential to you?
- What phrase or sentence might capture the essence of these themes?
- What phrase or sentence gets to the heart of the impact you want to have in the world?
Alternatively, you might journal, stream-of-consciousness style about these questions to see what comes up.
Keep in mind that your purpose is your “why” for being here, not your “how”. This is about the impact you want to have or what you want to create, not particular vehicles for how you might create it. So, for example, bringing more justice to the world is a “why,” but being a lawyer or advocating on behalf of your mistreated neighbor are “how”s.
If you aren’t sure where to start, read through your purpose themes again and then complete this sentence:
I want to create more _____________ in the world so that _____________.
Let your statement be big.
If your statement feels too big (as in, “how in the world am I to do that?”), that’s not a bad thing. Your “why” is big, but you will fulfill it in small (but significant) ways.
Let your statement be wrong.
Purpose reveals itself in layers over time (as in years and decades). This is just a starting point that you will continue to refine in the future. In addition, language is limited in what it can convey. Your statement will necessarily be incomplete, imperfect, and subject to change.
Not everyone feels called to share a message as part of their purpose, but you can check to see if you do.
- Is there something I strongly believe everyone in the world needs to understand?
- Is there something I feel strongly that people need to see differently?
Chances are, it feels to you like a whole lot of people currently just don’t get it, whatever it is.
And this one is from Jonathan Gustin of the Purpose Guides Institute:
- If I had to say something to people over and over and over again, what would I never get tired of saying?
You might journal, stream-of-consciousness style about these questions to see what comes up.
If nothing is clear, leave it. If something emerges, bring it with you to our next session.
This exercise is designed to help you generate ideas and open possibilities for how you might live your vision, fulfill your purpose, and incorporate the key elements you identified that are essential to you practically into your life.
Find an environment that is relaxing or inspiring for you. It could be indoors or outdoors (a park, café, hotel lobby, bookstore, house of worship, etc.)
In this inspiring place, do something that centers and relaxes you (meditation, yoga, walking, singing, dancing, listening to a favorite song, stretching, deep breathing, etc.). Then read through your PPP framework (your list of strengths/powers, Yes/Passion List, and purpose themes and statement).
With these in mind, brainstorm as many ways as you can think of to:
- Contribute your powers to the world
- Engage your passions
- Fulfill your purpose in concrete ways
- Take steps towards your Ideal Vision (especially baby ones)
Include ideas for jobs and occupations, but also things you could do outside of work.
Come up with ideas that fall all along these spectrums:
Are big <———————> Are small
Make lots of money <———————> Make no money
Are practical <———————> Feel highly impractical
Are easy <———————> Are challenging
Don’t analyze or judge anything yet so that you can stay in a creative mindset and come up with as many ideas as possible. Right now, you’re going for quantity, not quality. At this point, any idea is a good idea. Don’t worry about how you will transition into anything or what’s practical or not. There will be time to do that later, and doing it too early will block ideas and get in the way of clarifying what you want.
Write down as many ideas as you can think of. When you think you’re all out of ideas, keep at it for at least 5 more minutes. If you have more ideas and get stuck again, try to keep going one more time. Often our most creative ideas occur in the second or third round of brainstorming.
Brainstorm on 2-3 separate occasions by yourself. You can also add to the list in between these brainstorming sessions as new ideas occur to you.
Involve others. Once you’ve brainstormed on your own a few times, share your strengths, passions, and purposes with friends, colleagues, or family members and ask them what activities, projects, jobs, industries, occupations, or other ideas come to mind. You can do this one-on-one or host a brainstorming get-together, which is probably the best way to get new ideas. Often hearing what other people say will prompt new ideas for folks that they wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. Write down all the ideas you find.
If you have a hard time coming up with job ideas, use the internet. LinkedIn is one good resource for this, as you can search keywords you’re interested in and see what types of profiles come up. You can also use a free RIASEC test to come up with ideas based on your preferences and interests (http://personality-testing.info/tests/RIASEC/).
Write down any ideas that you discover, no matter how crazy, tenuous, or impractical. (Remember that crazy ideas can lead to more practical ones down the line.)
Keep in mind IDEO’s rules of brainstorming, including:
1. Defer judgment
2. Build off of other ideas
3. Encourage wild ideas
4. Go for quantity
Choose Where to Start
Start by reading through your brainstormed ideas list and imagine (as best you can) doing each activity or job. Notice which ideas bring up the most powerful feeling of Yes Body. Put a star by those ideas.
Keep in mind that you can explore as many ideas as you want. You’re just choosing which ones to start with.
Record Your Question
Next, get a notebook or journal. Dedicate a page to each of your starred ideas. Beneath each one, write a list of questions you have about it. What do you need to know in order to know if this job or activity is right for you?
You might have general questions, such as:
- What is this job or activity like day-to-day? In other words, what would you be doing? Where would you be? Whom would you be with?
- What skills and strengths would this allow you to use?
- What would the best part of this be?
- What would be most challenging about it for you?
- What would these jobs or activities give you, financially and otherwise? What they require from you?
You might have questions about how many of the elements in your Power, Passion, and Purpose framework the activity or job would fulfill.
You might have questions about the following elements:
- The type of work you’re doing (tasks and responsibilities)
- The pay/benefits
- Your location/environment
- How much or little you travel
- Work schedule, hours, or project length
- The level of interaction with others
- The type of people you work with
- Your leadership and management
- Opportunities for professional development
- The type of organization you work with, its size, values, and culture
You might have questions about any doubts or fears you have.
You might have open-ended questions for someone who’s done this type of work, such as:
- What do you like most about your job? What do you like least?
- What surprised you about your work?
- What did you have to learn, do, or study to get your job? What experiences were most helpful?
- Do you have any advice for someone considering this line of work?
- What did you have to give up in order to make it to where you are? What have you gained as a result of what you do?
- What would you do differently if you had to do it all again?
- Who else do you know whom I might talk to if I’m interested in this line of work?
Find Ways to Explore
Brainstorm ways to get answers to your questions.
- Try it out (do a trial project or take on a trial client)
- Do research online
- Do informational interviews. To find people to talk to:
- Send a note to your network via email, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or other social media asking if anyone knows someone in a particular role or field who you could talk to (or you can ask if they know someone who might know someone);
- Search job titles on LinkedIn and look for connections;
- Post your questions on reddit.com;
- Look for related groups on LinkedIn and Facebook to join, learn, and ask questions;
- Join related trade organizations and attend meetings or events;
- Find organizations working in the field and look for contact info for the organization or people in it and reach out to let them know you’re interested in the field and would love to ask a few questions;
- If you’re considering going back to school, reach out to the department you’re interested in and ask if they have resources or people you could speak with to find out more about opportunities in the field.
- If you went to college, reach out to the alumnae relations department and ask them for help connecting with fellow alumnae working in the fields you’re exploring.
- Go to www.pivotplanet.com and see if you can find anyone in the field or role you’re exploring (this is a paid service).
- Take a class
- Teach a class
- Shadow someone who does that kind of work
Keep in mind that information is helpful, and experiences are even better. Online research can be a good place to start, but ultimately talking to someone in the field and getting an experience of it yourself is the most powerful way to explore.
The most important thing while exploring is to observe your body (and feelings). Notice what comes up for you and how you feel as you engage with each idea.
During or after each exploration, record what you learn in your journal or notebook and how you feel about it (emotionally and in your body).
Deepen your exploration into anything that continues to elicit positive emotional or body responses. Broaden your exploration to include additional ideas as you’re inspired to.
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.
Power, Passion, and Purpose Framework
Get out your Yes List (passions), your Strengths List (powers), and your Purpose themes.
Go through each list and choose up to 10 of your favorites from each list. These are the ones that:
- Are most essential to you.
- Bring up the strongest elements of your Yes Body.
- You enjoy the most.
- Are the most meaningful or important to you.
- You’re most excited to use in your work.
There will likely be overlap. Don’t worry about which category you use for each item. If it’s important to you, just make sure it’s on one of the lists.
(Inspired by 8 Shield’s Renewal of Creative Path)
Review your lists of Powers (strengths), Passions (Yes List), and Purpose Themes, as well as anything else you’ve identified that you’d like to bring into your life more powerfully and completely.
From this, paint a picture of your ideal vision for your life.
Use your imagination and act as if you can do anything.
What is your dream life?
How do you want to contribute your powers?
Enjoy your passions?
Create your purpose?
Where do you want to live?
Whom do you want to be around?
What is your ideal day, week, month, and season?
What do you want to do for work, play, rest, renewal, family, relationships, connection, community, health, spirituality, growth, etc.?
Don’t worry if this feels impossible or unlikely. That doesn’t matter. Just sense into what you would love most and let it flow from there.
Don’t worry if you’re not clear on specifics. Focus instead on how you want to feel. For example, you might imagine that your ideal day starts slowly, with restful and nourishing activities that leave you feeling energized, then transitions into an activity where you contribute your gifts in creative and meaningful ways that that put you in a feeling of flow and leave you feeling valuable and fulfilled. You might then want to take a break to spend time with a friend or family member in a way that feels fun and connected, and then…
In some ways, it can be more powerful to focus on the higher level of what you want (rather than specifics) because that allows life many possibilities for fulfilling your vision. But if the specifics are clear to you (like wanting to paint on a small island by the ocean), then by all means include them.
You can journal stream-of-consciousness style, make a mind map, create a list, or make it visual with collages, pictures, art, or sketches.
In whatever way works best for you, pull together the themes you’ve uncovered so far in terms of:
- what’s core to who you are
- what you love
- what brings you alive
- what’s meaningful and important to you
- what purpose is calling you
- what’s wanting to emerge in you
and use them to paint a picture of your ideal scene.