July 6, 2016
Let’s do a little thought experiment:
Let’s say you eat really well—a wide variety of plants, avoiding sugar, dairy, and all the stuff that would otherwise be killing you slowly.
Let’s say you exercise for forty-five minutes a day.
Your body is working fantastically.
You are also essentially the modern equivalent of an early 20th century robber-baron. You are a jerk to people. You cheat your customers. Your main concern is your own bottom line.
Are you healthy?
The answer, of course, is no.
And here’s why: health—wellness—is a holistic thing. No matter how many good, healthy habits you’ve developed, if you’re an asshole to the people around you, it’s going to catch up with you.
This, of course, is just one example. But it’s a powerful one.
Your physical health is just one cog in the system. You thoughts, emotions, and spiritual condition are just as important in the health equation.
In the same way, the process of change is equally all-encompassing.
You can’t just change your diet if you want to be healthy. It just doesn’t work. Going straight to the “diet” category when you’re looking to take back your health is skipping the first—and most important—step.
Which is: Cultivating Awareness.
SEEING THE WHOLE PICTURE
You are a person. Which means that you live in this universe. Which, in turn, means that you operate according to its laws, whether you want to or not. So, to truly operate on a healthy level, you have to find balance. Within yourself. Within this universe.
As humans, we tend to compartmentalize things. We think about what we eat as being separate from how we breathe. We think about our physical health as something different than our mental health. We think about all these different things as pieces of a puzzle, ignoring the gorgeous, breath-taking landscape they make when all those pieces are put together.
So, the first step in developing healthy habits is to cultivate awareness.
OK, GREAT. HOW DO I CULTIVATE AWARENESS?
Here are two simple—but very effective— way to begins cultivating this awareness.
1. First, watch yourself for a full day. In the morning, first thing, close your eyes and take a deep breath. When you exhale, the exercise starts.
Imagine yourself floating above yourself, observing. When you eat breakfast, observe what you eat and ask, “Why am I eating this?” As you go about your daily routine, question why you are doing a particular thing at a particular time. When you talk to others, listen to what you are saying: Why do you say what you say? How do your words affect the other person? How do their words affect you? What are you really trying to accomplish with what you’re saying?
When you do something—anything—ask yourself, why are you doing this? How does it make you feel?
Do this for one whole day. I promise that you’ll be surprised by what you find out about yourself—and your place within the universe.
The second exercise to begin cultivating awareness goes like this:
- Find somewhere quiet to sit. Keep your back straight. Close your eyes. Now, take a breath.
As you inhale make a cartoon image of that breath. Give it shape and color. Now, watch as that breath fills your lungs. Let it expand throughout your body, from the top of your head to the tips of your big toes. Let that image fill you.
Savor that breath as if it’s a $10,000 bottle of wine. Appreciate it for everything it is.
This is your life force, the one thing that you can’t live without for more than a few minutes.
It’s essential in a way nothing else is. Your breath is the first thing you take in when you are born. It’s the last thing you let go of when you die.
Then, as you exhale, watch as that cartoon breath leaves your body—up from your toes, down through your neck, back in to your lungs, and then out through your mouth. Imagine that breath escaping, leaving your body and flooding out across the room, through the window, out across the lower edge of the sky, touching hills, fields, lakes and streams, moving out across the world like an echo. Watch as the breath slowly dissipates, losing shape slowly, the edges going first. Then watch as it disappears slowly, but completely, its molecules joining with those of the universe itself.
HEALTH IS A HABIT
Developing a habit of health is really, when you get right down to it, developing a habit of excellence. And that only happens when we are able to synchronize ourselves with the rhythms of the universe.
In our modern culture we’re conditioned to move quickly. There’s always something to do, some distraction, some obligation. We’re in a car traveling 80 miles per hour.
But what happens when we slow that car down to, say, 3 miles per hour? The world comes into a focus. We see things the way that they are. The blur clarifies. We notice things. Beautiful things. Wonderful things.
Here’s another way to look at what cultivating awareness really means.
Imagine you are in a forest. You are surrounded by trees. As you walk you hear birds, but don’t see them. As you walk you hear birds,
But then you com to a clearing. You sit down. You keep very, very still.
And then it happens:
A few squirrels scamper past, closer than you’d imagine. A few rabbits appear. And then a fawn, reddish-brown and still wobbly in its newness, wanders into view. It looks at you and you look back. And that moment is filled with wonder.
Good things happen when we slow down. It’s literally the first step in cultivating healthy habits. The reason for this is because it forces us to see us how we are—what we are, what we say, why we do what we do without even thinking about it.
Change can only begin when we identify what needs changed. Simply trying to “eat better” won’t get us very far. But understanding what we eat—and how it makes us feel—forces to own up to a lot of things that we normally wouldn’t even notice.
The great thing about awareness is that once a bad habit is identified—and we understand the why behind it—we can change it, slowly, step by step. And after awhile, that good habit become the thing we do without even thinking about it (which is, I guess, the same thing as saying that the good habit becomes your habit).
Awareness, at its core, allows us to figure out what’s good. Knowing what’s good allows you to choose good.
And it is a choice.
If you’re interested in learning more about cultivating awareness and developing good habits, come join us for a free dinner. Here at the Wellness Training Institute we’ve made it our mission to teach people to get out of the cycle of disease and dysfunction and take back their health.