For optimal health, one needs to develop self-awareness, have clear health goals, a willingness to make necessary changes and an attitude of openness, acceptance and gratitude. In the previous installment, goal-setting baskets were introduced. It may be helpful to review these on a regular basis, building on successes and refining as needed.

Life is a journey

Are you in the “driver's seat” or a passive passenger?

Do you have a clear destination and a roadmap?

Do you know where you are now?

Optimal health requires you to be the active driver, while remaining kind and mindful of your fellow travelers.

The first step on this adventure called life and health is self-awareness. Spending uninterrupted time in contemplation and self-examination allows you to take an honest look at your present situation. There are many distractions that entice us to veer onto unhelpful side-roads:

  • excessive work,
  • television,
  • shopping,
  • computers,
  • cell-phones, and
  • entertainment devices are but a few examples.

Many of us feel the need to be constantly busy, a message very much promoted by our society. We need to remember that we are human be-ings, not human do-ings! This busy-ness may be a form of avoidance. We need to avoid avoidance! You are invited to stop and unplug for a time, either daily or at least weekly, to allow your deep, instinctual self-knowledge to come into awareness. Perhaps a walk in nature, or sitting in a quiet place where you are unlikely to be interrupted will allow the space needed for this personal inventory. Formal or informal meditation practice can be helpful.

Many of us become very attached to our habits and are afraid of self-examination because it may bring about change. Change takes energy. Change plunges us into unknown, new directions and unexpected destinations. Fear of making changes (new job, relationships, home, diet , health habits, etc) may paralyze us, even if we know that what we are doing now is not working out very well.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is my life situation working for me in terms of physical, emotional and spiritual health?
  • What areas could use improvement?
  • What are the barriers to making changes?
  • Honest answers require self-examination and awareness.

Awareness requires you to cultivate your inner witness or observer. The “observer” is that calm, centered part of us that seems to watch our ever-changing interplay of thoughts, feelings and sensations without reacting to them. We have all noticed that part of us stays calm even when we are very upset. This centered, grounded aspect of us needs to be in the driver’s seat as often as possible. This concept will be expanded in future musings. Tune in to your body, your mind and your soul-trust and listen to your innermost thoughts and feelings.

MINDFUL EXERCISE:

“Stop, Look and Listen” Find a few minutes every hour to simply stop, look and listen. Take a few deep breaths. Check in with yourself and your surroundings. Ask some questions:

  • how is my body?
  • my thought patterns?
  • my emotions?
  • Do I feel rushed and overwhelmed, or calm and well-paced?
  • How is my environment?
  • How are those around me doing?

Develop your own list of questions and take this inventory as often as you can. Perhaps journal in the morning or evening, allowing time for contemplation. You may find that by simply cultivating your “observer” in this way, you will be less reactive and more calmly responsive to the moment-by-moment challenges that greet us each day.