One Simple Question to Reduce Doubt

Do you ever find yourself wondering whether or not you should do something or feel guilty that you’re not doing something?

This has certainly been a recurring question in my life. 

Sometimes it comes up when I’m considering hitting the snooze button. Most recently it came up while developing a program I’m getting ready to launch when exploring what I felt I “should” offer.

I started to notice that there is a big difference between being out of my comfort zone and out of alignment with what serves me best.

There are times when inaction serves our higher good and times when it doesn’t—and there’s a question we can ask to get clear on which one’s which.

If this sounds like a familiar struggle, then this video is for you. In this video, I share a simple question you can ask to help gauge those moments when you’re not quite sure how to feel or what to do.

When we ask, "Am I avoiding or allowing?" doubt and guilt begin to disappear. {Tweet that!}

After watching the video, give it a shot. Think back on times when you didn't do things either because it would stretch your comfort zone or because it would leave you feeling unhappy or resentful, and you’ll start to be able to use this as a compass moving forward.

Now it’s your turn! Do you have any tricks or tips to gauge when you’re honoring your truth or hiding from your fears?

Head on over to the blog or Facebook page to share your wisdom in the comments below this video. I would love to see what sort of lessons we can learn.

So many of us struggle with feeling guilty or running ourselves into the ground because we aren’t clear on when to take action or when to allow ourselves to be true to ourselves. 

Clarity comes from knowing if you’re hiding from your fears or honoring your truth. {Tweet that, too!}

With gratitude ...

PS If you know anyone who could benefit from asking this simple question to experience more confidence and clarity in life, please share this with them. 

Craving More Freedom? Then Check This Out

Have you ever pondered the question, “What is true freedom?"

Now, there are seemingly many kinds of “freedom” out there—financial, creative, time, sexual, etc.

The other day I was having a conversation with the amazing Tara Tag about what financial freedom means. And it dawned on me that financial freedom isn’t having a certain amount of money—it’s knowing that I am able to make a choice based on what’s true for me instead of what’s in my bank account.

I realized that it’s a perception thing—not necessarily reality. I have a choice. I mean, I literally have a choice to spend money on something or put it on a credit card or find a way to create more money or not.

Then I noticed how this is true in so many other areas of my life. In all of these, I have a choice and can, therefore, experience freedom in all of them in any moment.

If we want to be free, we need to acknowledge (and exercise) the choice we have in each moment. {Tweet that!}

In this video, I’m going to share with you just what freedom means to me and how we can go about experiencing more of it in our lives. 

Read More

The #1 Reason We Don't Experience Unconditional Love

Unconditional love.

You know, the kind we see in the movies. The kind where the person can do no wrong and are loved fully and truly as they are. Ah, so beautiful.

I must admit, I’m one of those sappy romantics who believe it’s possible and wants nothing more than to experience it in my own life.

And, boy, do I try. I want nothing more than to love my partner unconditionally — so why is it so hard sometimes?

I’m not suggesting that to give unconditional love is easy but I wondered if I might be missing something. I realized I was going about it in the wrong order. I was focusing all of my efforts on loving him unconditionally. And when I found myself feeling frustrated when I couldn’t seem to muster up the ability to do it, I couldn’t quite understand why.

What does it even mean to love unconditionally? According to one article I read, it means releasing judgment and accepting others as they are and choosing to act in a loving manner always.

Have you ever wanted unconditional love?

Or maybe you’re one of those people who believe it doesn't exist. I don’t blame you. It’s hard to believe it exists when we experience it so seldom and when most of us have been going about it all wrong.

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If we want to experience unconditional love, we have to start by giving it to ourselves.

This was my big “ah-ha” moment. Maybe it’s painfully clear to everyone else but it just recently clicked for me. I began to realize that if we can’t love ourselves unconditionally we’ll never be able to experience unconditional love elsewhere.

Why?

Well, because the way we see ourselves is how we see the world. So, if there is something I don’t like about myself, it’s going to become a sore spot for me when I see it another.

How can we have unconditional love for someone who possesses the qualities or does things that we don’t like about ourselves? We can’t.

Before we can even begin to love someone else fully and truly for who they are, we first must love ourselves that way.

How?

Stop judging ourselves.

That voice that says “I can’t believe you just did that” or “That was so stupid” or “Why am I always so needy?” needs to go. Judgment is a total joy kill and it makes loving ourselves unconditionally impossible. When we judge ourselves we are placing a condition on ourselves that says “If only I were better, then I could love myself."

Accept ourselves for who we are.

Yup, despite the number on the scale or what others say about us or how much money we have in the bank. Life is cyclical. It ebbs and flows. We have ups and downs. We need to remember that in this moment we accept where we are. It might not be where we “want to be" but that doesn’t matter. When we are unwilling to accept who we are we are placing a condition on ourselves that says, “If only I were different, then I could love myself."

Choose to act in a loving manner with ourselves — always.

This shows up in how we talk to ourselves and how we take care of ourselves. Do we say kind things? Do we get enough sleep? Do we fuel our bodies with healthy foods? Do we care for ourselves the way we would care for another? Do we put our needs first? When we choose not to act in a loving manner we are placing a condition on ourselves that says, “When I feel good about myself, then I can treat myself better."

If we are unwilling to love ourselves in this way, we can’t expect to show it to others.

Because each time they do something that irks us or triggers us, it will be so much harder for us to accept it and not judge it if we haven’t first developed that same kind of compassion within ourselves.

It’s a heck of a lot easier to accept someone for being late when we have already done the work to accept ourselves those times when we did the same thing.

Let’s do the work ourselves first. Then, we can think about extending this type of love to others.

And once we’ve learned how to love ourselves unconditionally and begin to extend that to those around us, we create space for them to do the same thing.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

What is one way you can show yourself more unconditional love? Share below and inspire others by leading the charge and providing some food for thought.

The Only “What If” Question We Ever Need to Ask Again

I cannot count how many times I wonder things like, “what if this happens” or “what if that happens” and “oh my god, but what if…?!” These questions and focusing on the future are not nearly as helpful as I want them to be. Instead of getting answers and feeling better about things, I often end up with more questions and feeling a lot worse.

So … I’ve decided that I’m going to do my best to refrain from asking any “what if” question EXCEPT for the only one that actually helps me experience more peace, ease and flow in my life. One that actually provides me with more answers and feeling better than before I asked it.

Wanna know what the one “what if” question is ….?

i-believe-i-think1

WHAT IF IT ISN’T TRUE?

I imagine many of us have stories that we tell ourselves on a daily (if not hourly) basis that limit us or hold us back. These stories usually aren’t fairytales or even awesomely powerful “I can do it” stories.

They are more often than not stories that tell us how we aren’t good enough or why things don’t work out for us or why we could never do this or that.

It is these stories that make up our belief system — about ourselves and about the world around us.

And it is our beliefs that beget our actions and behaviors. So … if we want to change a behavior, the first place to look is at the stories we tell ourselves and what beliefs we carry.

They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.

If we want to start moving the needle in the direction towards global sanity, we need to start by looking within at the beliefs we each hold that are driving the same ol’ behavior over and over again.

Here are a few suggestions on how to start this process.

Acknowledge that a story and belief even exist.

Before we can change anything, we must first admit it exists. We need to admit that the beliefs we hold to be absolute truth are just based on stories that we have been telling ourselves for as long as we can remember. And while these stories are based on our personal experiences or the experiences others have shared with us, they are still our creative interpretation of reality which started to form our view of ourselves and the world. Before we can do anything else, we need to take the first step (albeit possibly the hardest) and say, “This is a story I keep telling myself."

Question the belief.

Now that we have acknowledged that our beliefs are nothing more than stories we made up and reinforced time and time again, we can begin to question them. We can start to ask ourselves, “what if this isn’t true?” Another way to do this is to question what other possibilities exist? And one of my favorite ways to reframe our beliefs is to ask “who would I be without this story?” This helps us take more responsibility in how we are behaving based on the story or thought we choose to believe. The more often we can put ourselves in the driver’s seat and make powerful, conscious choices on what we believe and how we act, the more often we will experience peace, ease and flow in the world.

Replace your stories with new ones.

Once we start shifting our perspective and see that there are other stories that are equally as valid and probably even serve us better, then we can start to form new beliefs. This can be done by establishing some positive habits and rituals like gratitude, affirmations, setting soulful intentions and focusing on that which we want to bring more of into our lives.

The great thing about stories is that they can be rewritten.

I get it — we like our stories. We think they are who we are. They are comfortable and we know them all by heart!

But when they hold us back and limit us from being our best authentic self, then it is time to get out the red pen and start making some edits. It might even mean scrapping the whole story altogether and starting over from scratch.

What is one story you keep telling yourself over and over again that you are willing to acknowledge, question and possibly even replace? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Presence Matters Has Been Published Again on Elephant Journal

I am excited to share that Presence Matters has once again been published on elephant journal! This is a really important step for spreading the message of having more peace and joy in life. I invite each of you—my supportive readers—to take a moment to check out my latest article, Soulful Intentions for the New Yearif you didn't get a chance to read it last week.

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The first moments of a New Year present opportunity to set aside some time to come up with our intentions for the year ahead.

Resolutions are the more common as we approach the first of the year. However, these firm decisions do not seem to support a mindful existence as well as an intention, which allows for the ebb and flow that life most certainly will bring.

As we embark on a new year—another 365 days of possibility—I want do so in an intentional way, creating a guide from which to make mindful, soulful decisions in each and every moment. Decisions that support and uphold the life I desire. [click the link to read more]

You can help out greatly by clicking this link and, if the article inspires or resonates with you, re-share it on your personal social media pages.

Thank you for seeking and spreading the art of improving the experience of life!

With gratitude ...

The Power of the Domino Effect

Kindness Blog has generously published another Presence Matters blog on the power of the Domino Effect. dominos-1

One of my favorite things to do when I was a child was to line up dozens of dominoes in an interesting configuration, tip one of them over and watch all the others elegantly follow suit.

Sometimes I think that people are a bit like dominoes.

When one of us is “nudged” to do something good, many others elegantly follow suit.

Read the article to see how one person's seemingly small action can spur positive change.

Being Mindful Doesn't Mean Not Making Mistakes

Have you ever gotten frustrated with yourself for not being as calm and centered as you would like to be? I have. Quite a bit.

I often forget that mindfulness is not just another thing to “get right." Somehow I get it in my head that just because I practice presence that means I will always behave in a mindful way. That I can “master” mindfulness. No pressure or anything.

But Eckart Tolle reminds us that as soon as we notice we are not being present, we are present. That is the whole point.

Mindfulness is an ongoing, lifelong exercise in reminding ourselves to be in the present moment. This will happen over and over and over again.

And the more often I can remind myself that my mind is focused more in the past or future and not on what is happening in the moment, the more I strengthen my mindfulness muscle.

Head in Hands

As a recovering perfectionist and over-achiever, I really want to “master” mindfulness. I somehow think that once I “figure it all out” I will always act in a mindful way. No stress, no resistance, no attachment, pure bliss, above being human.

Well, that’s not how it works.

I am human — even the Dalai Lama "makes mistakes" and is a lifelong student of mindfulness. Just because I have learned how to be more aware and experience a higher level of consciousness than I did, say, two years ago does not mean that I still don’t make mistakes.

Being mindful is not about being perfect. Being mindful is about being in each moment as often as possible, showing compassion to myself and others as often as possible, and fully experiencing my life situation as it is as often as possible.

For some of us, it might be helpful to be reminded that we are not superwomen and supermen. Though it can be easy to think that sometimes.

The path to enlightenment has twists and turns and roots and rocks and many stumbling blocks along the way. It’s not about avoiding the pitfalls; it’s about staying on the path in spite of them.

When we choose to practice presence, this does not mean we aren’t still human and make mistakes. If you find yourself forgetting that you are an imperfect human like the rest of us while on your path to more peace and ease in your life, gently remind yourself of these things:

All you can do is do your best.

And remember that “best” is not “perfect.” Imagine if each of us were more mindful just 10% more of the time. It doesn’t have to be 100% (and in reality won’t be) to make a positive difference.

Be compassionate.

Love yourself for being bold enough to try. Being mindful isn’t always comfortable. Failure is not an indicator of a lack of ability — it is a reminder of where our current limitations are and an opportunity to grow.

Pick yourself up and try again.

When you catch yourself judging or resisting or attaching to what is (or was or might be), give yourself a little grace for even noticing this (that’s already a huge step!) and then try again.

We can all strive to be more mindful in our lives while accepting that we are merely human. Mindfulness does not have an end date of completion. There is no certificate or title to achieve. This means we get to work on it each and every day for the rest of our lives. And the mistakes we make along the way are simply opportunities to learn more about ourselves and continue to grow.

How have you noticed yourself trying to “master” personal growth? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

Don't SHOULD All Over Yourself

How many times have you caught yourself saying, “I really should….”? This one small word has more power than we think — it causes stress, feeling “less than,” and places more importance on the outside world than on our internal needs and desires.

This one small word can also be used as a great excuse — excusing ourselves from not doing something we really don’t want to do and excusing ourselves from mustering up the motivation or courage to do the things we want to do.

Next time you find yourself "should-ing” all over yourself, take the time to honestly answer a couple of simple questions.

Head in Hands

Probably some of my most commonly used phrases are, “I really should go to yoga today” or “I should call my parents” or “I supposed I should do something different with my life.” It seems natural to say these words. They slip out of my mouth as if almost by magic. The word just sneaks its way into my vocabulary simply to taunt me.

When I find myself using “should” I have an immediate reaction that can range somewhere between self-loathing and complete self-denial.

As I became more aware of my self and what this one little word does to me, I started asking why I was even using it. And what might happen when I replaced that word with something else.

Here’s what I discovered. The word “should” typically does one of two things.

It either serves as a placeholder for doing something that I have absolutely no interest in doing and only feel an obligation to do based on something in the external world or an internal judgment.

Or it serves as a placeholder for doing something that I really want to do but am lacking the motivation or courage to commit.

Either way, this one little word causes unnecessary stress as it weighs us down and casts doubt on our desires and priorities.

Whether we use “should” as an excuse not to do something we don’t muster up the motivation to do or as a way to hold ourselves hostage to the obligations of others and unrealistic expectations of ourselves, we can all free ourselves by authentically answering these two questions and removing the word “should” from our vocabulary.

Is this something that I truly want to do and aligns with my values?

If yes, replace the “should” with a “want” or a “will” and make a commitment to do it. If no, continue to the next question.

Is it simply an unnecessary external or internal obligation that I have established?

If yes, free yourself from the obligation and remove this from your mental or physical to-do list.

Once we determine which bucket these “should’s” fall into, then it’s time to put systems or processes in place to make the “want’s” and “will’s” happen.

Instead of wasting energy “should-ing” all over ourselves, we can put that energy towards shaping our future through the choices we make in each moment without any of the unnecessary self-loathing or regret.

It is so empowering to know that we are in control of determining our values and actions. Ridding our vocabulary of the word “should” is one of the first steps to having a clearer sense of what we want and don’t want. And it creates space for having more energy to put into fulfilling our value-based commitments with ourselves.

What is one “should” you can either remove from your to-do list or change to a “will”? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.

Presence Matters Has Been Published Again on Elephant Journal

I am excited to share that Presence Matters has again been accepted to publish articles on elephant journal! This is a really important step for spreading the message of having peace and ease in life.

I invite each of you—my supportive readers—to take a moment to check out the article, Discover Unconditional Well Being in the Present.

You can help out greatly by clicking this link and, if the article inspires or resonates with you, re-share it on your personal social media pages.

Thank you for seeking and spreading the art of improving the experience of life!

With gratitude ...

One Lovely Blog *Nomination*

I am so honored that Presence Matters has been nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award by Inwardmarvels. It has been such a rewarding experience to spread the message of peace and ease over the past few months. I am so appreciative of my readers and followers and cannot thank you enough for your continued support and help spreading the peace! Now, to the nomination ... I am copying the rules as they have been posted by Inwardmarvels.

One Lovely Blog Awarddownload

The One Lovely Blog Award nominations are chosen by fellow bloggers for those newer and up-and-coming bloggers. The goal is to help give recognition and also to help the new blogger to reach more viewers. It also recognizes blogs that are considered to be “lovely” by the fellow bloggers who choose them. This award recognizes bloggers who share their story or thoughts in a beautiful manner to connect with viewers and followers. In order to “accept” the award the nominated blogger must follow several guidelines:

  • Thank the person who nominated you for the award.
  • Add the One Lovely Blog logo to your post.
  • Share 7 facts or things about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 bloggers you admire and inform the nominees by commenting on their blog.

7 Facts about Myself

  1. I am the youngest of four.
  2. I strive for self-growth and development, holding the belief that we are the masters of our universe.
  3. I hiked the entire 2200+ miles of the Appalachian Trail in 2009.
  4. I love dogs, am allergic to cats and currently have no pets.
  5. I have lived in 10 different places in the last 11 years — some might call that a gypsy; I just say "yes" to life.
  6. I truly believe in the power of love and compassion, with a personal experience that the world is as beautiful of a place as you want it to be — it reflects what you project onto it.
  7. I have not had cable in over 8 years.

My 15 Nominations: You Are Awesome!!

  1. Awaken
  2. Mind Clouds
  3. writing to freedom
  4. Aminelle Nali - Splendiferous Doses of Happiness
  5. The Living Philosopher
  6. Slowishly
  7. That's Another Story
  8. Happiness, Healthy and Hypnosis
  9. Soul Buds & Mind Blossoms
  10. Spiritual Success
  11. only here only now
  12. Let Yourself Learn
  13. Nature and Mind
  14. James Radcliffe
  15. thebuddhasutra

Gratitude Rocks! Reasons to Jam Out

Life sucks. My boss is a jerk.

This steak is overcooked.

Yes ... there are plenty of things to complain about in this world. But there are also a ton of amazing (and not-so-amazing, quite ordinary) things that are worthy of our acknowledgment on a daily — if not hourly — basis.

Practicing gratitude has a number of benefits. And who wants to be a “Negative Nancy” all the time?

Curious what these benefits are and how to cultivate them on a regular basis?

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I admit, I have said many a negative thing in my life. But I don't like the way I feel when I say those things. When those negative thoughts start to emerge — which they still do — I immediately try to interrupt them and ask "what are you grateful for?"

Then I list off three or five things that I am grateful for in this very moment.

It is amazing how much better I feel and how quickly those terrible things don't seem so terrible anymore.

Expressing gratitude can sometimes slip our minds. But the benefits far outweigh the effort required to implement a regular gratitude practice.

There is a growing body of knowledge in this area led by highly esteemed researchers such as Robert Emmons, Ph.D. Check out some of the benefits found during this gratitude research.

  • In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).
  • A related benefit was observed in the realm of personal goal attainment: Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.
  • daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to a focus on hassles or a downward social comparison (ways in which participants thought they were better off than others). There was no difference in levels of unpleasant emotions reported in the three groups.
  • In a sample of adults with neuromuscular disease, a 21-day gratitude intervention resulted in greater amounts of high energy positive moods, a greater sense of feeling connected to others, more optimistic ratings of one’s life, and better sleep duration and sleep quality, relative to a control group.

"So, how do I go about doing this more often?" you might ask.

Establish a system that works for you. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Keep a gratitude journal and list a few things in it each day before going to bed that made you smile or that you were grateful for.
  • Participate in or create a gratitude challenge on Facebook with your friends to post 3 “grate” things on a daily basis.
  • Ask a friend to be your “Gratitude Buddy” and send each other one thing you are grateful for each day — not only does it reap the benefits, it helps you develop a deeper connection with a friend you might not otherwise connect with as often. Next time you find yourself saying something negative, try the gratitude treatment. I bet you'll have an easier time finding things to be grateful for than having to complain about.

What are 3-5 things you are grateful for right now? Spread the gratitude bug by sharing your thoughts below.

Presence Matters Invited to Be Guest Blogger on Kindness Blog

It is truly an honor to be asked to share this message on other blogs that are also doing amazing work spreading the message of peace, joy and goodness in the world! Check it out and follow Kindness Blog — if you aren't already — and keep spreading the love.

http://kindnessblog.com/2014/10/07/3-things-that-happen-when-you-have-inner-peace/

With gratitude ...

3 Ways to Turn Your Yoga Practice Upside Down

For many people, yoga is more than just a physical activity. It is also a mental and spiritual experience — often described as being quite meditative. But if you’re anything like me — and many other people I see and hear in my yoga class — it sometimes doesn’t feel that way. Have you ever noticed that the much-desired zen experience feels more akin to frustration or defeat than to an enlightened state?

Well, the good news is that you can turn your yoga practice into a deeper, more enlightened experience by doing three simple things.yoga pose

I have been practicing Bikram Yoga for almost two years and it is amazing how it wasn’t until very recently when I realized that I could use these 90 minutes for more than just practicing the 26 postures and getting my body into shape. This was an amazing opportunity to strengthen my ability to be mindful and present.

As someone who loves to “get it right” and “be the best,” I struggled with turning my yoga practice into anything beyond pushing myself to be better, stronger, calmer and mentally beating myself up when I felt like I wasn’t living up to that.

Then I had a breakthrough. And I turned my yoga practice around 180 degrees by doing these 3 things.

Change the track I listen to in my head.

90 minutes is a long time to keep the mind from wandering off and getting lost in the top hits track of the day. My solution? First, I found when I focus deeply on the words the instructor is saying instead of boarding each thought train that raced through my mind, I remained more present. Secondly, I changed the track in my mind from saying things like, “this is so hard” or “I’m so hot” or “why can’t I hold this posture like I could yesterday?” to “I am here … in this moment … and in this moment … and in this moment” over and over again keeping my thoughts more constant and present and, therefore, being able to better listen to my body.

Change the mask I wear.

I can scowl and grunt and tighten up my face when the postures feel challenging or I can choose to keep my face relaxed and even squeeze out a smile during a challenging pose. By making this small shift, I allow myself to relax, breathe and stay present with my body in that moment. I also find that when I exert less energy on reacting to a difficult posture, I have more energy to give to that posture and it becomes easier.

Practice continuous compassion.

I remind myself that I am constantly changing and I am different each and every day. My practice today is going to be different than my practice two days ago. If I need to sit down or come out of a posture early today, that’s okay. And, if I can change the track in my head it is actually easier to hear what my body needs in each moment and then I can be compassionate with myself when my body needs something today that it might not have needed yesterday.

Whether you are an avid yogi or just a fan of staying limber, you can use your yoga practice to not only deepen your exercise of body and soul but also deepen your practice of living in the present. By doing so, your practice will enrich your life in more ways than you can imagine!

What do you do to make yoga a more meditative experience? Share your tips and tricks by leaving a comment.

Trouble Hearing What Your Body Has To Say? Try This on for Size

Hmm, I’m kinda hungry. I probably shouldn’t eat anything though—we might be going out later. Man, I’m tired … but I can’t go to bed now—it’s only 8pm!

It’s amazing how we can overcomplicate even the simplest things sometimes, like listening to our bodies. If you’re hungry, eat; if you’re full, stop; if you’re tired, sleep. Although, since most of us have gotten so out of touch with our bodies it can feel harder than it really is sometimes.

Would you like to listen to yourself more often?

Well, if you want to simplify your life in one small way, try taking these steps to listen to your body more often.

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I have always struggled being in touch with my body. My typical response to, “Are you hungry?” is, “Hmm, I’m not sure.”

This is how it’s been for as long as I can remember. Questioning if I was hungry or not, unsure if I wanted more to drink, forcing myself to stay awake even though I couldn’t keep my eyes open.

Some of this was due to simply being out of touch with my body. Most of it was due to second-guessing myself, overanalyzing a situation or flat out refusing to listen to my body in the moment.

As I started practicing mindfulness, I became more aware of what was going on inside of me. Now, I continuously practice not only being aware but also listening to what my body has to say.

In this day in age when distraction is the norm, everyone has an opinion on something and justifications are protocol for living, it is no surprise that so many of us are out of touch.

Not only does being in touch simplify things, it is a healthier option.

Putting down my fork and not eating another bite when my body says it is full keeps me from overeating. Noticing when I’ve had enough to drink and not ordering another keeps me from feeling sick. Sleeping when my body says it is tired gives my body the time it needs to replenish and recharge.

To be in tune with your body, you must:

Be in the moment

If you are busy regretting what just happened or worrying about what might happen later, you are more likely to mistake what is going on inside your body or choose not to listen to it. Instead of worrying that your task list won’t get completed if you go to bed now, try listening to your body and see how much more energy and productivity you have the next day.

Avoid judging the sensation as right or wrong, good or bad

There is nothing wrong with being hungry or full or drunk or tired. These are important cues your body is giving you. Listen to them without judging them. Next time your mind starts to say, “I shouldn’t be hungry, I just ate” or “It’s such a waste to leave so much on my plate" or “if she’s getting another drink I suppose I should, too” listen to your body instead of your thoughts.

Release any expectations or attachment to something being a certain way 

Just because you are hoping to hear from someone about dinner plans doesn’t mean you can’t go ahead and eat something now. Just because you always stay drink-for-drink with your friend doesn’t mean you have to today. When we allow our expectations or attachments determine our actions, we are out of touch with our bodies and cause unnecessary stress—on our bodies and on our minds.

Imagine if we all were more in tune with our bodies. Just think what impact that could have on the struggles with obesity, alcoholism, eating disorders, chronic stress, lack of productivity, high rates of burn-out, heart disease—just to name a few.

Next time your body tries to tell you something, tune into that and tune out the thoughts that have up until now been calling all of the shots.

What is the biggest struggle you have in terms of listening to your body? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.

If You Read This Blog, Then ...

Recently, I explored a few myths that are dangerous to our well-being and practice of presence. Another one of these is the “if …, then …” mentality. If only I had more money, then I could relax.

If I wasn’t alone, then I could feel lovable.

If my neighbor wasn’t such a jerk, then I could find peace.

By placing our attention on achieving or gaining something in the future, we lose sight of the beauty and importance of the present moment. This constant reaching for a thing, feeling or experience beyond what is happening now causes unnecessary stress in our life and is completely ineffective.

Instead of deceiving yourself with the thought “if …, then …” try “now …, and ….”

We can all achieve our “then” when we replace our “ifs” with “now.”reaching for something brighter

For many years, I fooled myself into believing that if my partner was more affirming, then I would feel loved; or if I got the promotion, then I would feel valued; or if I found a new partner, then I would feel complete. Then I experienced that none of this is true.

My ability to feel loved, valued and complete have absolutely nothing to do with anything or anyone else—it has only to do with me and what I am thinking, believing and focusing on in this moment.

"But shouldn't I strive to improve things for myself in the future?" 

Well, actually, here are a few reasons why that doesn't work.

It keeps us from taking responsibility for our lives.

There are very few things we can control in life. One thing we can control is how we respond to each situation. It is up to us to see situations as stressful and limiting or peaceful and opportunistic. To seek peace or opportunity in only certain situations places the responsibility of our reaction to external factors. When we do this, we delegate the one thing in our life that we can control—our attitude.

Only 10% of our satisfaction with life is based on circumstances.

Sonja Lyubomirsky’s research has found that approximately 50% of our satisfaction with life is predetermined by our genetics and only 10% is determined by our circumstances—which is not very much. This means whether I am rich or poor, single or married, in a job I love or not does not make much of a difference. This leaves 40% to intentional activity and choices we make. One of the key ways to intentionally increase your satisfaction is to live in the present moment.

We have evolved to get used to things.

Another finding of Lyubomirsky’s work looks at hedonic adaptation—the fact that humans adapt to joys and sorrows with time. So long as we strive for things outside of ourselves to bring us peace or joy, we will eventually get used to it and be right back at where we started, seeking something else to help us feel that way again, and thus the cycle begins.

Dan Gilbert discovered that we are not very good at predicting what we will like or not like in the future. This affective forecasting is another reason our “if…, then…” mentality is futile—we inevitably adapt to the things we think will be amazing, and we typically bounce back from the things we think will be terrible much more quickly.

When we have a sincere attitude of gratitude and stay present by releasing judgment, resistance and attachment then our level of satisfaction with our life situation no longer depends on circumstances beyond our control.

What is one “then” you can achieve by replacing your “if” with “now”? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.

Give the Gift of Presence: Try These Three Things

I see you. I hear you. And what you say matters to me. How often have you sincerely been able to say this? Or received this from another person?

Being able to truly be present when listening to someone else can be extremely difficult. It’s one thing to be present with oneself—noticing sensations, feelings and thoughts as they come and go. But, it is a whole other practice to do this same thing when in dialogue with someone else.

As Oprah Winfrey noted, people want to be seen and heard. And it is a great exercise for us to practice presence when given this opportunity.

We all can give the gift of presence when listening by doing these three things.

Attentive Listening

For all of the work I do to live a mindful and present existence, I still find it extremely difficult sometimes to be fully present when listening to another person. I’m either judging what they say or planning what I am going to say next or interrupting them to prove my point or negate what they said.

Sound familiar?

And, yet, none of these things are a practice in presence.

True presence requires me to refrain from judgment and simply observe what is said, felt or heard; to be in the moment and not be thinking about the future; to release expectations or attachment to specific outcomes; and to quiet my ego by detaching from my thoughts and beliefs.

"But who would I be if I didn’t argue that professional football players get paid a ridiculous amount of money?! I need to defend that and make sure everyone knows how I feel about it!”

Or … I could simply notice that thought for what it is—just a thought. And note that this particular thought causes my blood to boil and my heart to race—for some reason. And remember that this thought is not “me” so there is no need for me to defend or prove “myself."

One of the most beautiful gifts we can give another is our presence by truly listening to and hearing them. When we are completely in the moment and can release any attachment to our own beliefs and expectations of another, we can truly hear that person without the need to craft a response or interject with our own ideas or even feel the need to defend.

Next time you are having a conversation and want to practice the gift of presence, try these three things:

Breathe, breathe, breathe.

I know it keeps coming back to the breath but we often forget just how powerful it is. If you are focused on your breath, it’s kind of hard to speak.

Listen to what is said and notice how you react—then let it go. 

Acknowledge any judgmental reactions or remarks that cross your mind, thank your inner voice for sharing and then let the thought go like a cloud dissolving in the sky.

Recognize what is your responsibility. 

It is not your responsibility to “fix” or “change” another person. It is also none of your business what they think or feel. You are responsible for what you believe and how you react. Be aware of when you start taking on responsibility for others and then kindly resign yourself from that job.

It’s not to say that you will always agree with everything everyone says—or need to, for that matter. But when you practice being present and truly listening to another person and learn how to check your ego at the door, you honor that person and yourself while cultivating peace.

What is one thing you can do the next time you engage in a discussion with someone to practice giving your gift of presence? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.