Where do you get stuck in victim-mindset?
A couple of years ago, I attended a mindfulness training at a beautiful ashram in the Bahamas—all beach and sand and sun, open-air rooms on the waterfront, vegetarian meals, and a large platform for meditation surrounded by water and palm trees.
Everyone was there to attend the same training; workshops were offered each day, and there was a packed calendar of speakers. A meditation began at five o’clock every morning. Each day had a gentle rhythm to it—exactly what you’d expect of ashram life.
The very first morning, as I prepared a cup of tea and casually observed the people around me, I noticed a crowd forming. A man wearing a yellow robe stood before the group, who immediately created an altar for him. He was clearly their guru. Suddenly, hundreds of students had gathered, all dressed in yellow, and they started chanting. There was palpable worship energy being generated by the people.
It started to feel like I was in the scene of a movie. The mimicry of the moment felt off—as though every worshiper would have boarded a spaceship for that guy right then, without thinking about what they were doing and why. At the same time, it was a testament to the power people can create through belief.
The following day, I woke up and thought I’d actually go check the guru out. That was outside my norm—my childhood patterned belief of exclusion always kept me outside of groups and gatherings. I’m either in the front of the room or sitting out in the hall, but I’m never in the middle.
For years, that patterned belief limited me. I struggled with resentment and anger because I never understood why I was always outside. I believed I was a victim, and I would blame others for not including me—even though the truth was I had spent my whole life learning to adhere to a messy, self-exclusionary pattern.
But at that moment, in that ashram, standing in a crowd before a guru, after doing years of personal development work on myself, I understood why I’d always taken on the role of the outsider.
When I started doing the work of digging into my limiting beliefs and partnering that work with mindfulness, I woke up. There, in that ashram, was my awakening. The moment I walked away from that crowded platform area where the guru had been, the energy felt so much freer. It was like I could breathe again. I realized I belonged outside the crowd that stood in front of the guru rather than in it. I liked the perspective of the outsider, of seeing the whole picture. I didn’t want to be in the middle because I’d lose that overall perspective.
So, I got my morning tea and found a little bench outside the platform area, and I just sat there and watched the rest of the morning unfold. For a moment, I thought, Oh, this is just like when I was a kid. Maybe I should… And then a little voice in my head quietly said, But perhaps this is giving you a different perspective that you need.
So I observed how much better it felt to be on the outside. For the first time, I gave myself permission to sit outside and watch the group from a distance—as an invitation to myself. It was a beautiful wake-up call.
As you’ll discover on your own journey to mindfulness and enlightenment and wholeness, there are people along the way who will tell you that their way to the mountaintop is the only way. They’ll try to teach you that you can’t get there unless you go through them. But that’s just not true. The only way to your mountaintop is your way.
Now, I’ve fully stepped into the awareness that my wounds are my wisdom—that I am only a victim if I choose to be. My suffering has been my most outstanding teacher. I have found value in all the years of stress, trauma, and pain of being an outsider because it’s made me who I am. All along, those experiences were an invitation for me to rise to the highest occasion of my life. They were experiences I had for a purpose. Because there, in that ashram, staring at that guru and the crowd he had generated, I realized: I get to choose. I can stand at the front of the room or remove myself willingly. But I am not a victim. The choice is mine.
What if the very things you feel victimized about were actually given to you as a gift?
In this crazy life, it’s easy to get stuck in chaos, confusion, and unhealthy states of mind. If you have no experience shutting up and sitting when these challenges show up, you are not yet a master of yourself. No matter the situation, agreeable or disagreeable, it is your way of being in it that matters. Only through the continuity of committed practice will you arrive at the marrow of mindfulness and acquire its true gifts and strengths.
At the end of the day, it’s about waking up and remembering who you really are. It’s about finding your most profound truth and bringing it to light. It’s about answering the question, “Who am I to be great?”
Really, who are you not to be?
Want to learn more? There’s a book for that! Click here to take the first step towards greater awakening, awareness, self-love, and personal transformation.
If you enjoy reading Shut Up & Sit, then you’ll love receiving weekly love letters from Yedda! Each week you’ll get stories, wisdom tools, and mini doses of mindfulness delivered straight to your inbox. Plus, you’ll be the first to know about upcoming events, workshops, new products, and more.
Turns out there is a clear benefit to all that writing…
Did you know that some polls show that holidays—especially the Thanksgiving through New Year’s— bring people more stress than joy? Between the endless to-do lists, exhausting travel obligations, and annual family drama, holidays can become something most of us need a holiday from.
Several years ago, my family decided to do something a little different.
Now, every Thanksgiving and Christmas, my extended family gathers together around a shared table to celebrate: My mom, her third husband Pop, my dad and his second wife, her children, and his adopted children, myself and my siblings, and all of our children. Although my biological father lost his battle with addiction years ago, if he hadn’t, I believe he’d probably be sitting there with us, too. But the simple fact that we’re all able to sit there—talking and laughing, bickering and telling stories, some of us sober and vegan, others of us decidedly not, broken and rebuilt and blended and whole—to me, that’s a miracle.
It took no small amount of work on the part of each of us to arrive at that table in our own way, in our own time. We approached the waking-up process differently—going through our personal darkness to remove any barriers there before returning to the truth and wholeness of who we are. Some of us withdrew. Some of us went head-on into conflict and wanted to have hard conversations. Some of us got lost in our healing process, finding other guides, gurus, and leaders to help us. But each of us had to go through our personal version of withdrawing and pulling back from each other and the world to heal. It was tough for years. It was rocky; it was wild; it was uncharted territory.
As a family, we’ve all done our work—the same work I’ve dedicated my consulting life to—in different ways to heal and grow. Every single thing we went through: The addiction and the alcoholism, the infidelity and the abuse, the poverty, and the death, the dark nights of the soul—all of it had a purpose. It was not something you’d necessarily choose for yourself or someone you love, but looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing.
My current family dynamic is one of the things in my life I’m most grateful for.
What do you do when you experience gratitude? Do you nourish it, or are you too busy running through the to-dos of your daily life to pause and really notice? While there are many ways to practice gratitude, gratitude journals are probably one of the easiest ways to begin if you’re just starting to explore a practice. (There’s a reason why they are always trending, after all. Plus, gratitude journals are fun to buy.)
But there’s a science behind the trend. Neuroscience shows that repetition of an action partnered with a theta brainwave state (what you get when you practice meditation) is the key to changing your neural pathways. In other words, if you want to make a gratitude practice a habit, try waking up 15 minutes earlier each morning to meditate for ten and spend five writing in your gratitude journal. Do that, and you’re literally rewriting your beliefs about yourself and the world—both in your journal and your neural pathways—every single morning.
Ready to dive in? Try this: Purchase a gratitude journal, and for the next week, record five things that you are grateful for in your life each day. (Bonus points if they’re five different things each day—which will work your gratitude muscle even more. At the end of the week, review what you wrote and consider journaling about what the experience was like.
I can practically guarantee you’ll notice a shift in your overall perspective, even if it’s small.
Here’s the thing: If you establish the habit that you’re going to wake up every morning and write down a few things you’re grateful for, then you set the intention for gratitude for the rest of your day. If you want to become happier and more joyful, you start with gratitude.
Want to learn more? There’s a book for that! Click here to take the first step towards greater awakening, awareness, self-love, and personal transformation.
If you enjoy reading Shut Up & Sit, then you’ll love receiving weekly love letters from Yedda! Each week you’ll get stories, wisdom tools, and mini doses of mindfulness delivered straight to your inbox. Plus, you’ll be the first to know about upcoming events, workshops, new products, and more.
Awareness is key.
Present moment awareness (aka mindfulness) is the most straightforward, natural path to gratitude. The more awake and aware of the present moment you become, the more you’re building your mindfulness muscle. As your perspective on your life and the world around you expands, you’re able to tune into more of what’s present—and that includes more to be grateful for.
In other words, stepping into awareness allows you to see the world for the beauty that it is, not colored by the dirty lens of an old mindset or belief that stopped serving you a long time ago. When you begin to master the skill of being aware, you also begin to master your default to gratitude.
There are three critical steps to nurturing an awareness to gratitude mechanism in your brain.
- Paying close attention to the present moment, fostering mental, physical, and spiritual focus.
- Being wholly engaged in the present moment—not distracted by the past, the future, or the latest gadget.
- Getting comfortable with stillness.
By becoming aware, you allow the present moment to expand on its own. You can welcome gratitude for it—simply by watching, waiting, and sitting with an unattached curiosity and compassion for the world. (Sounds an awful lot like the practice of meditation, doesn’t it?)
By consistently creating space for gratitude in your mindfulness practice, you’re instantly up-leveling its effectiveness. While you can’t rush healing, gratitude can act as a secret trapdoor to accelerating the process of becoming unstuck from your limiting thoughts and freeing yourself from the things that are no longer serving you. The more room you make for gratitude in your mind, the more your inner-critic loses critical mental real estate.
Consider the thinking-feeling-behaving cycle that’s often discussed around mindfulness. Remember, although nearly 95 percent of my clients and students think that feelings ignite the thoughts that inspire actions and behaviors, it’s really your thoughts. When you’re mindful, you’re able to slow down your thoughts, find the gap between your thoughts, and then pause long enough to choose the thought that will best serve you and the greater good.
If you’re choosing your thoughts, you might as well choose gratitude.
Want to learn more? There’s a book for that! Click here to take the first step towards greater awakening, awareness, self-love, and personal transformation.
If you enjoy reading Shut Up & Sit, then you’ll love receiving weekly love letters from Yedda! Each week you’ll get stories, wisdom tools, and mini doses of mindfulness delivered straight to your inbox. Plus, you’ll be the first to know about upcoming events, workshops, new products, and more.
(And none of them require a journal!)
When I first started practicing stillness and silence, it was like my soul stepped up to the task of sitting with who I really am; not who I am according to my inner critic, but the essence of who I am—who I always had been. The more I worked my mindfulness muscle, the more I could drop into a deeper level of consciousness.
Sure, I’d still mess up. I’d feel “enlightened” for a bit, and then I’d mess up. I’d feel even more “enlightened,” and then I’d mess up again. That’s how my journey went for years—how everyone’s mindfulness journey is, in fact. We’ll always grow and mess up again, forever.
At first, that might seem frustrating. Why bother doing all this intense, demanding, deep work if not to reach a state of constant calm and ultimate enlightenment? There’s a Zen kōan that sums up this feeling well: “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”
But when you introduce gratitude into your mindfulness practice, everything changes. For me, that included discovering an appreciation for suffering too. While I’m sorry I hurt people in the healing process, I appreciate the struggles and wounds—even those that started in utero—because they made me who I am. If anybody knows about inclusion, it’s me because I spent a lifetime being excluded. If anybody knows about healing, it’s me because I spent a lifetime being wounded. If anyone knows what it’s like to feel unlovable, unworthy, and not whole, I’ve lived all of that.
Ultimately, if we can just get to a place of gratitude, even when we’re walking through some of our lowest days, we’ll start to heal.
As research into the concepts of happiness and emotional well-being gains traction in many fields, research on the nature of gratitude is increasing and its causes and potential consequences for health and well-being.
Consider this research on people who possess joy, for example. It turns out that the common thread throughout each of their experiences is a mindset of gratitude. I’m not just talking about a general appreciation of “I love my house/car/dog/kids.” It’s learning to access profound gratitude for everything―even for the suffering—and finding gratitude for what you don’t have or what you don’t have yet. Gratitude isn’t something you feel just when things are going right. It appreciates the ups and downs of your journey.
One of the absolute best examples of the power of gratitude is in Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. In his book, he writes that the only way he survived his imprisonment in Auschwitz was to wake up and find gratitude for rotten fish heads in dirty water—because that’s what enabled him to live. He was in the middle of a concentration camp, and his entire family had been ripped apart and killed. Even though everything that defined his life had been stripped from him, he made an effort to find gratitude.
Frankl was a neurologist and psychiatrist, so he knew his stuff. He believed that he and his fellow prisoners were more likely to survive their experience if they could do two things: Find a purpose in life to feel optimistic about and imagine their future. And that’s what he did.
While gratitude journals are all the rage right now, there are many different ways to practice gratitude. Consider starting with some of my favorites:
- Build a gratitude board. (Like a mood board, but for gratitude!)
- Practice simple thanks for your next meal.
- Practice a gratitude breath prayer.
- Thank your body with a massage or bathing ritual.
- Make a gratitude playlist.
- Say thanks by committing a random act of kindness.
The truth is that no matter where you are or what you’re doing in life, when you’re able to tap into gratitude for what you have, what you have is enough. And if all you have is dirty water with rotten fish heads in it, then you might have to dig much, much deeper for that gratitude. But it makes all the difference.
And it’s not just a fancy new journal…
In my work, I often discuss that many people who could benefit from mindfulness aren’t ever able to commit to a practice in the first place. Not only can mindfulness meditation exacerbate psychological trauma, but the approach also requires you to sit with your pain and walk alone through your trauma to get to the other side. There’s an immense amount of uncertainty, self-judgment, anxiety, discomfort, and grieving to go through.
At the same time, there’s also a tremendous amount of courage, acceptance, release, calm, and healing waiting for you on the other side of that journey.
One of the elements distinguishing a healthy mindfulness practice from one that isn’t sustainable over the long term is gratitude. Often, when folks hear “gratitude practice,” they think of a performative journaling exercise rushed through at the end of each day (i.e., “I’m thankful for my dog/house/car/food/friends/shoes, goodnight.) But that barely scratches the surface of gratitude. By finding gratitude not just for the good in life but also for the challenging, terrifying, exhausting, and woundedness, you can get to a place of true freedom.
That level of gratitude doesn’t just require awareness; it requires learning not to self-judge, not to let the voice of the inner critic take over, and not allowing a lifetime of unhealthy thoughts and beliefs to define the present moment. It’s about embracing yourself and your unique journey—wounds, mistakes, and all. It’s being grateful for the uncertainty of the things that aren’t serving you well and building the belief that all that suffering is there to help you grow and heal.
It’s sitting with discomfort long enough to discover your wounds can become your most incredible wisdom.
Consider one client’s story (in my book, Shut Up and Sit: Finding Silence and All the Life-Changing Magic that Comes with It, I call him Robert).
When I first met Robert, I thought he was one of the nicest people I’d ever encountered. We met at a local gym (the kind where you flip tires and swing sledgehammers), and one day, he asked me what I did for work. For weeks we exercised together without asking one another anything—both just focused on performing the commands yelled into our ears by the trainer. I replied vaguely, assuming he was the last person on earth who’d be interested in mindfulness.
I mean, why would he? This guy walked into the gym and was greeted with a chorus of everyone yelling his name. What did he need to know about limiting beliefs or how to rewire the brain in silence and solitude?
As it turned out, everything.
As a young African American man living in the American South, he was born poor and raised by a single mom. He grew from those circumstances into one of the top scientists in his field and is now the Vice President of a global company. But despite his professional success, he struggled with reactivity. In conflict, he was sure the other person needed to change. He felt trapped in an antagonizing, toxic work environment detrimental to his physical and mental wellbeing.
Through our work together, he realized that he contributed to some of the things he took issue with. He awakened to the idea that when you’re not getting along with someone or you dislike something about a person, you need to hold up a mirror because maybe what you dislike in them is something that is also within you. That mindset shift helped him to become more accepting of other people.
He understood the science of beliefs and began to see another way to heal the victimization surrounding him, stepping into his true power—a power he now uses to teach others the value of all backgrounds, races, and ethnicities. He assists young minorities in achieving success simply by being who he is rather than operating from a place of anger.
Finding gratitude for everything requires great courage. It requires extreme patience and taking the risk of showing up in a new way without knowing the results. It requires emotional vulnerability and a willingness to face uncertainty.
You just sit in the present moment, with whatever it is you’re facing, allowing your authentic self to hold space and then inviting gratitude to join you. The minute you discover gratitude, not only does it shift your inner landscape, but it will lift your spirit as well.
At the end of the day, I believe gratitude is just love—love for self and for everyone and everything else in the universe. It’s a readiness to show up with appreciation, receive abundance, and return kindness. It’s a long game of reciprocity, allowing yourself to be moved by the world—because when you allow yourself to be that moved―you cannot help but generate gratitude, create connection, and become fully engaged in life.
In the words of my client, Robert, “If I can’t change the past and I can’t control the future, then I’m going to stay present. I will always be a thoughtful person, but only now am I not as intensely worried about stuff as I was before. It’s so freeing to discover the influence that I have over my own destiny.”
We’re talking about the hot-cold empathy gap.
When I met my client (in my book, Shut Up and Sit: Finding Silence and All the Life-Changing Magic that Comes with It, I call him Bruce), he was the CMO of a Fortune 100 company and in the middle of a significant life crisis. He believed that he stood to lose everything that mattered to him, and his anger was all-consuming.
“The Hulk,” as Bruce described his shadow side, was running his life. He didn’t even know how to exist in a world where he didn’t call the shots and lead with anger. Bruce wasn’t ready to admit that his life had become untenable, and he definitely didn’t want to ask for help. Needless to say, he wasn’t entirely sold on the concept of mindfulness, either.
So much so, in fact, that our first session together was full of profanity. (Lucky for Bruce, I’m fine with cussing.)
The work to sit with and contain his anger to dig into what was underneath it changed Bruce profoundly. It turned out “The Hulk” was simply a shield—there to protect a wound that was so old and so deep, Bruce had wholly lost sight of who he really was. Underneath his anger was the pain of a desperate young boy who wanted, more than anything, to just be loved. For years, Bruce had been repressing decades-old trauma, leading to not just anger but anxiety, stress, and negativity that were impacting his life at work and at home. Something had to shift.
Bruce was trapped in what the personal development industry calls the “hot-cold empathy gap.” Think of it like this: Have you ever observed (or been, yourself) a parent trying to calm a toddler in the throes of a temper tantrum? It’s impossible. No matter how gently you ask them to calm down or how many deep breaths you take, hoping they will mirror you, very often, that tantrum just has to run its course. Once a toddler enters that full-blown-fit stage, they’re deep into a neurobiological process that has to take its time returning to a state of calm.
That tantrum, and its subsequent resolution, is the hot-cold empathy gap in action. Once the brain enters a stress response and neurological patterning begins to run its loop, you’re in it. At that point, it’s almost impossible to sit in silence and will yourself out of that loop. Once those neurons are firing, you have to ultimately devolve and deconstruct before you can return to a state of calm and review what happened—and try again.
Once on the “cold” side of the hot-cold empathy gap, you can take an objective look at your triggers and reactions, choosing to be aware of your surroundings, your cues, your triggers, and your responses the next time a similar situation arises. By fostering that awareness, you can even start to consciously create a life in which you surround yourself as much as possible with people, places, and things that support new, healthier behaviors.
In the case of Bruce, one of the first things he and I worked on was the importance of a morning routine. Before he committed to a mindfulness practice, he dreaded going to work. Looking at his phone immediately after he woke up meant he’d often start his day with stressors from work, dwelling on them as he got out of bed and prepared for his day. It set him up for stress before his day even started.
His new morning routine allowed for an earlier wakeup to create time for mindfulness, meditation, journaling, exercise, and sitting in silence. Once his morning routine became a habit, he incorporated a similar nighttime routine, focusing on gratitude journaling his thoughts on the day.
By starting with those two shifts, Bruce found himself pausing in triggering situations rather than reacting, responding in empathetic and engaging ways rather than with immediate anger. He’s become calmer and less agitated, enjoying better outcomes in every area of his life.
That traumatized young boy, desperate for love, eventually transformed into a grown man who found that love within himself.
Do this instead of setting a New Year’s resolution
Did you set a New Year’s resolution this year? If you did, have you already broken it? (Never fear… you’re not alone.)
A story… When I first began to meditate, I was ALL ABOUT IT, if you know what I mean. I was really digging mindfulness. So much, in fact, that I built myself a meditation room and proceeded to fill it with every rock, crystal, bead, candle, and oil you can imagine. It was like some alchemist bookstore vomited into a little corner of my house.
I was totally lost in the aesthetics. If I was going to meditate, I had to have the right music playing, the scented candles burning, and a piece of rose quartz clutched into my palm.
I didn’t yet know that I didn’t need any of that shit. I was in the performance of meditation, rather than meditation itself, with the idea that if I appeared as though I were meditating, I would get the outcomes of meditation as well. But it doesn’t work that way.
But I was committed to my setup—even hanging a sign outside my door, decorated with a lotus flower, that read: Do Not Disturb, Meditating. Even my teenage son knew the deal: He was not to come in when I was meditating with the lotus flower sign on the door.
Then, one afternoon as I was sitting in my meditation room with the music playing and the candles burning and the crystals doing whatever it is they do—just waiting for meditation to happen—my son came through the door and began talking to me.
In an instant, I whipped my head around and yelled, “I’m f*cking meditating!” He just stood there staring at me as I turned back around and sighed heavily, my brain protesting loudly. I cannot believe he did that, I thought to myself. I’ve gotta get back into the Zen moment.
But then, my son quietly walked up behind me, put his hands on my shoulders, leaned down to kiss me on the top of my head, and said, “Namaste, Mommy.” Then he walked out of the room and shut the door.
I felt like the biggest jerk in the world.
So what, you might be wondering, does that have to do with New Year’s resolutions and forming healthy habits?
Many folks believe they have to become a member of some exclusive club to make a fundamental change in their lives—like they have to join the Meditation Club, capital M to meditate. You might think if you don’t dress or speak a certain way or light incense and use crystals, you’re not someone who meditates. (This can apply to anything—joining a gym, asking for a promotion, beginning a new business venture, pursuing a new educational opportunity, starting a new relationship, or becoming a parent. Often, we get preoccupied with performing the thing, rather than just doing it.) But that mentality has got it totally backward. It’s just another manifestation of the ego.
Truly reaping the benefits of meditation started with me making the simple decision to sit every single day, whether I wanted to or not. Sometimes I wake up, and the last thing I want to do is shut up and sit—sometimes I’m tired and feeling out of it, or the weather is cold, and I just want to curl up with a blanket and my coffee. But, through continued repetition within a theta brainwave state, I made sitting a habit—and it changed my life.
I don’t always know what’s going to come of it or if I’ll discover anything on any given day. But by showing up every day, whether I want to or not, I know the rest of my day will show up differently, too.
Healthy habits are formed—and unhealthy ones transformed—when you start showing up for yourself.
But don’t get me wrong—it’s not easy. Every day, habits dictate 40-45 percent of what you do; most of the time, folks are unaware of their habits and where they originated in the first place! This is called a “habit loop,” and by identifying yours, you’ll be able to create new routines that will lead to new, healthier habits. (And you might even stick to your New Year’s resolution.)
A habit loop works like this: You’re just going about your day when you’re struck with a craving. Usually, this craving is for a feeling, but identifying that takes some pretty serious internal excavation. More often than not, cravings present as the desire for a giant cheeseburger or a shopping spree at your favorite shoe store or an extra-large martini at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. You have to dig pretty deep to realize that a Big Mac™ or new Louboutin’s are a stand-in for happiness or fulfillment. Nonetheless, your craving produces a behavior.
That behavior becomes your habit.
When it comes to habits, most people only think of two elements: The craving and the behavior that attempts to satisfy that craving. In fact, the most critical aspect of any habit—and your ability to change it—comes before your craving even begins?
The most fundamental component of any habit loop (your built-in trigger-reward response) is the stimulus that cues your craving in the first place. That cue is the thing that happens before the trigger. But here’s the critical part: You cannot identify that cue from your conscious mind.
That’s where mindfulness comes in—you begin to wake up and, on a consciousness level, become more aware of the stories you tell yourself and the habits they generate. The more aware you are, the more data and information you can identify and process, the more you understand about yourself and your patterns, the more agency you have over changing them.
So, HOW ARE HABITS CHANGED, then? Try the following fill-in-the-blank exercise.
When ______________________, (CUE) I will ______________________ (ROUTINE) because it provides me with ______________________ (REWARD).
First, notice what’s going on with the habit you want to change. For example, your fill-in-the-blank might look something like this:
When John mentioned the “guys trip” he wanted to take over the holidays, I gave him the silent treatment for the rest of the evening because it provided me with feelings of power and control around my insecurities about our marriage.
It can be tough to get that honest with yourself. But the second step is a lot more fun—I promise.
Once you’re clear on what’s driving your unhealthy habit, make a plan for what you’ll do to change it. For example…
The next time I’m feeling insecure about my marriage, I will sign up for my favorite spin class because it will provide me with a healthy space to clear my mind before having a conversation with John.
Arriving at a place where you can be consciously honest and self-aware enough to complete the above exercise requires a practice of shutting up and sitting. Just like going to the gym to work out the muscles in your body, you have to sit every day to learn to work your mindfulness muscle as well.
Once the process starts to take form, you’ll become aware of the behaviors needed to change your habit—and it won’t happen on the first try. Changing a pattern takes a commitment to repetition until you’ve replaced the old habit’s neural pathway with a new one. But as you begin to notice what healthy behaviors need to replace unhealthy ones, you will develop a new working model for your life. You’ll see yourself as a change agent in your new story and discover increased alignment in your life. But it starts with showing up to your life in a different way, rewiring your habits, and enjoying the healing outcomes you create.
Everyone gets angry… But mindfulness can help.
This week, I want to introduce you to a client of mine—in my book, Shut Up and Sit: Finding Silence and All the Life-Changing Magic that Comes with It, we call him Thomas—and before meeting with me, Thomas knew a thing or two about anger.
Before beginning mindfulness training, Thomas felt trapped in a constant state of mental chaos. He described his life as a horse race where the starting bell had rung, the gates opened, and the horses take off around a track—except Thomas. Thomas was the jockey whose gate was stuck. He was primed to move, but he couldn’t.
As the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, Thomas constantly juggled a competing list of demands, whether looking for the next opportunity, growing his business, or dealing with employees. He was frustrated by his desire to grow, but his sense that the people he’d employed and collaborated with to support him were only holding him back. When something didn’t go the way he’d hoped or planned, he got angry. Really angry.
Our first training sessions together were about awareness. Together, Thomas and I talked about how he interacted with other people and how his energy impacted others. When faced with an issue in his company, he responded with anger and aggression—so much so that in one instance, his c-suite team stopped responding to his messages altogether.
Through mindfulness, Thomas realized NOBODY would want to respond to an angry person if they could avoid it. He began to explore how he could show up differently the next time a challenge arose, to get a different response from his team. The next time they had a problem that needed to be addressed, instead of saying, Why aren’t you taking care of this? Thomas simply said: I see this is happening. What can you tell me about this? By simple tweaks to his communication style, Thomas invited his employees into a conversation instead of forcing them to respond to an attack.
He learned that how he showed up determined the outcomes of any given situation—because as a leader, how he showed up significantly impacted the thoughts, beliefs, and actions of those around him. By not showing up as his best self, he wasn’t inviting anyone else to show up as their best selves either. As a self-described “Type A personality,” Thomas had a tendency to launch directly into action the moment a problem arose. Mindfulness showed him a different path—that slowing down enabled him to take more considerate, intentional actions.
He also learned to see what those around him could do better than he could, delegate, and ultimately take better care of himself. He went from leading meetings from the back corner of the conference room to sitting at the head of the table. He started showing up as the best version of himself—someone who didn’t respond to every stimulus with anger.
The health impacts of anger are far-reaching and can often be disastrous. Anger causes high levels of stress that strain your physical health over time. But for as many people who report experiencing high levels of anger, most of us don’t know nearly enough about it. Check out the data below:
- More than one in ten people say that they have trouble controlling their anger.
- More than one in four people say that they worry about how angry they sometimes feel.
- One in five people say they have ended a relationship or friendship with someone because of their behavior when angry.
- 64 percent of people either strongly agree or agree that people, in general, are getting angrier.
- Fewer than one in seven of those people who say they have trouble controlling their anger have sought help for their anger problems.
- 58 percent of people wouldn’t know where to seek help if they needed help with an anger problem.
Here’s the thing: everyone gets angry sometimes. While you may not be able to avoid anger all the time, you can use mindfulness techniques to better understand your anger triggers and symptoms and how to express your anger in healthy ways. The next time you find yourself overcome with anger, try to pause and ask yourself some of the questions below.
Step 1: Check in with your body.
- Do you have any physical pain as a result of your anger? If so, what hurts?
- Take a moment to look at your reflection. Do you notice any differences in your face? Are your eyes dilated, and is your face red?
- Pay attention to your muscles. Are they tense? Are you clenching your fists? Are your shoulders down and relaxed or raised and stiff? Can you take time to perform a mental body scan, noting every area in your body where you’re holding tension?
- Tune into your breathing and your heartbeat. Are you having a hard time catching your breath? Is your heart beating faster than usual?
- How’s your adrenaline? Do you feel a sudden burst of energy?
- Are you having gastrointestinal problems?
Step 2: Check in with your mind.
- What has caused you to be angry?
- What are some of the feelings and thoughts you are having because of the situation?
- Why does the situation make you angry? Could there be any other reasons besides the obvious? Think about your relationship and past experiences with the person.
- What are some ways you can make this situation better and avoid this in the future?
Step 3: Understanding your triggers.
- What triggered your anger in this particular situation?
- Do you have any idea why this might be a trigger for you?
- How do you feel about your triggers?
Being able to spot triggers—recognizing why certain situations trigger you and how they make you think and feel—will help you realize when you should implement your anger management techniques. During times of high stress, when you start to become angry, you can begin to manage your discomfort by taking a pause to assess your situation.
Practice mindfulness around your anger often enough, and you’ll be amazed at how your relationship to anger changes. You might even wind up like Thomas—living your life from the head of the table instead of the corner of the room.
Human evolution includes a long history of stress…
Years ago, my son was born prematurely and spent some time in the NICU. One afternoon, soon after I finally brought him home, I was sitting in a little house on the Texas military base where my husband was stationed at the time, and out-of-the-blue, I was smacked in the face with debilitating fear. I looked at the tiny human in my arms and suddenly had a full-blown freak-out. My mind went from that moment when I was holding him, all the way to the realization that I would die one day, and then my son would die, and everyone we ever knew would die at some point too.
We’re all going to die, I thought to myself. I can’t do this.
At that moment, trying to imagine every aspect of my son’s life and every part of my own, I experienced the worst panic attack of my life. I stood up, set my son down in his crib, and went running to the neighbor’s house. Pounding on the door, I shouted, “I can’t do this! I can’t do this!”
This woman, who barely knew me at all, ended up calling my husband at work, and he came home. My mind was chaos. I was taking on my son’s entire life, my entire life, and all the lives of everyone around us in one single moment.
I believed that if I could only figure out how it would all unfold, we’d all be okay. In doing so, I was making myself crazy.
Now my son is in his twenties, and honestly, thank goodness I didn’t know every aspect of the future—I’m grateful it unfolded one moment at a time.
But we all do this in different ways, right? We think if we only knew the answers to all the questions or could anticipate precisely what will happen when or knew every single thing the future held for us and everyone else, we could protect ourselves from pain. We fill our present with stress and worry about our future to avoid future stress and worry.
Every day you probably face multiple, stressful demands in your life that lead to overwhelm, anxiety, or even anger. Believe it or not, the human body is hardwired to react to stress in these ways.
Evolutionary psychology says that stress reactions helped protect prehistoric humans against threats from predators and other aggressors. But while we might not be running from sabertooth tigers or wooly mammoths anymore (at least, not often), that doesn’t mean our lives have become stress-free. Stress—whether the predator is a four-legged one or your email inbox—is a part of the human experience.
When you perceive a threat—for instance, a large dog barks at you during your morning walk—a tiny region at the base of your brain, called your hypothalamus, sounds an alarm in your body. This alarm system prompts your adrenal glands to release a surge of stress hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol, through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals. Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure, and boosts energy supplies—the kind needed to outrun a prehistoric predator. Cortisol increases sugars in your bloodstream, enhances your brain’s use of glucose, alters your immune system responses, and suppresses your digestive system, reproductive system, and growth processes.
This complex natural alarm system also communicates with regions of your brain that control mood, motivation, and fear. The body’s stress response system was designed to be self-limiting. Once a perceived threat has passed, hormone levels return to normal. You take some breaths, and you move on with your life.
But the human body’s prehistoric stress response hasn’t evolved in correspondence to the pace of modern life. YOU might cognitively understand it’s your ringing cell phone that’s ruining your day, but your brain still operates as though every ping is a deadly predator.
When stressors (like your inbox) are ever-present, you constantly feel under attack, and your fight or flight reaction is always on. The long-term activation of the stress-response system and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones can disrupt almost all of your body’s processes. This overexposure puts you at increased risk for numerous health problems, including heart disease, digestive issues, trouble sleeping, weight gain, anxiety, depression, and memory and concentration impairment.
Recent studies show that 77 % of people regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress, and 73% regularly experience psychological symptoms caused by stress.
33% of people report living with extreme stress, while 48% feel their stress has increased in the last 5 years—and this data was collected BEFORE the global pandemic of 2020!
48% of people report lying awake at night because of stress, while 54% report stress causes them to fight with others. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
As humans, most of us are frantic to get away from the feeling of stress. We do everything we can to try to escape it—we hate the feeling, and so many of us think that we’ll feel better if we can just avoid it. But we can’t escape stress. Instead, we have to harness our power to take charge of it.
By identifying your stress triggers, you become more aware of when stress threatens to take control. Then you’re better prepared to take care of yourself physically and emotionally, filing a toolbox with stress-management strategies BEFORE stress responses kick in. For example…
- Eat a healthy diet, get regular exercise, and get plenty of sleep.
- Practice yoga, relaxation techniques, or learn to meditate.
- Foster healthy friendships.
- Have a sense of humor and try to laugh often.
- Seek professional counseling when needed. If you feel that your stress is out of control, consult with your physician or health coach.
- Try meditation. As little as five-to-ten minutes of daily meditation has been proven to help the brain make new and better pathways and connections.
- Practice yoga, which combines many necessary activities that reduce stress, including exercise, body movement, and meditation. Take a class at a local studio or gym, or find a free video on YouTube.
- Practice deep breathing, an integral part of meditation practice. Taking deep breaths just five to seven times throughout the day delivers benefits. Simply pause, reflect, and take a few deep breaths every few hours or before and after meals to calm your nervous system.
- Practice positivity and gratitude by making an effort to think kind thoughts about your life and be grateful throughout the day. Positivity fuels you with natural chemicals that decrease your level of stress. Speak positive messages to yourself and others, or consider keeping a gratitude journal.
Instead of viewing stress as the thing that will destroy your health and ultimately kill you, what if we all started looking at our stress as an invitation to become healthier in body, mind, and spirit. What if your stress responses are an invitation from your body to transform? What if you thought of stress as the survival mechanism evolved to be instead of the fallout of negative stimuli? You might just lessen its power.
Plus, there’s science behind the success of each one…
As a child, did you ever do that science project designed to test the effects of music on plants? In the experiment, each student is assigned two little sprouts to care for. The experiment consists of playing music for one plant but not the other. Typically, the plant that enjoyed Mozart’s greatest hits (or, say, Brittany Spears’ breakout album, on repeat) always grew more than the plant that just received sunlight and water.
Both plants probably grew, but only one flourished.
Why is that?
Let’s dive in by returning to our favorite formula: Intention + Attention = Manifestation. When it came to the plants, the intention was for them to grow and flourish. But things changed when testing the plants’ growth under differing conditions. While both plants received a regular dose of attention to maintenance, the plant for which music was played likely received extra attention that carried a higher energy level. (Whether you knew it as a kid or not, as the music-playing experimenter, you were also holding an intention of loving-kindness for the plant, whereas, with the other plant, you likely just performed basic, routine care.
It wasn’t the musical notes alone that manifested the change. The energy of additional loving-kindness YOU brought to the space with intention and attention had an influence too. (Yes, you are so powerful you can make plants grow with your mind.)
Japanese businessman and author Dr. Masaru Emoto performed a similar study of his own, titled Water, Consciousness, and Intent, which basically expands upon the ideas of that childhood experiment, using water molecules. His research demonstrated that human thought has the power to change the molecular structure of water.
We know that thoughts are mental units of energy. Some studies have shown that emotions can radiate up to five feet from the body. Dr. Emoto took this information and applied it to crystalized water. While in liquid form, he assigned different words to water taken from the same pond specimen. Once frozen, the water that was given positive words crystalized into beautiful designs. The water that received negative words either didn’t crystalize or crystalized into an amorphous mess.
Let’s assume, though controversial, that Dr. Emoto’s research was on to something. Now consider the fact that the human body is made up of 60 percent water. If positive and negative energy can transform plain pond water, imagine what they can do to all the cells and tissues in our body. Consider the power our thoughts and feelings have over our general health and well-being!
Everything we encounter in the world carries energy, and all that energy emits different vibrational frequencies. When we have a thought or set an intention, it physically radiates out into the world around us, impacting people, things, future possibilities, and us—all through the power of thought.
So, how can we all become the flourishing plant or the beautifully crystallized water? Through present-moment mindfulness, of course. Try one of these daily awareness practices the next time you’re feeling a little wilted—you’ll be amazed by the power they hold.
- Mentally scan your body, starting with the crown of your head and moving down towards the soles of your feet, noting the sensations in different parts of your body without judgment.
- Focus your attention on your breathing, zeroing in on how your body experiences the function of breathing in your nostrils, lungs, or abdomen. How does breath arrive differently in each of these areas?
- Tune into bodily sensations or sounds as they arise. What does a hungry body feel and sound like, compared to a sleepy body, compared to a satiated one? Try to be present with each sound and sensation for as long as it occurs.
- Imagine yourself as an outside observer of yourself as you consider your thoughts and emotions. Can you watch them arise and then recede? Can you offer yourself compassion for what you’re experiencing?
- Tune into the external soundscape around you. Try to identify individual sounds within the noise of your setting. Let one sound come to the forefront of your hearing, then allow it to fade into the background as you invite something different into your consciousness.
- Focus your thoughts, noticing any time you think an “I am” thought. Don’t like the inner monologue you have with yourself? Replace it. Try “I am” statements like: I am loving; I am kind; I am strong. Notice how your external experience changes as your inner one does.
- Try a compassion mindset. Bring yourself into a sense of kindness for yourself or anyone else who might enter your consciousness in the present moment.
- Try a kindness mindset. Set an intention of kindness that you first offer to yourself, then others. Begin sending a kind intention to your loved ones, then consider neutral people to you, and finally, offer kindness to those who are difficult. Engaging with this practice in a meditation setting will support your ability to offer kindness in real-time, off the meditation cushion.
- Try forgiveness. Forgive yourself for being human, experiencing things beyond your control, and struggling with factors like genetic makeup, the neurological wiring of your brain, cultural differences, and social norms.
- Don’t just think kind thoughts; say them aloud—whether you’re in the presence of others or not. Your words and language have power.
- Take a purposeful pause. Try setting an alarm several times a day as a reminder to take a fifteen or thirty-second pause. In those pauses, notice what thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations are present. In your mind, say “yes” to each—letting you know you’re enough as you are, in every present moment.
- Have an email strategy. (This might sound silly, but I promise it will change your daily life!) Develop a personal protocol for responding versus reacting to emails or any other media through which others can get in touch with you. For example, a simple post-it stuck to your computer that says: “Give yourself 24 hours to respond.”
- Use driving as a time to tune in. The next time you’re in your car, turn off the radio and steady your wandering mind. Pay attention to any physical sensations of being in the car and driving. Notice the particular details of your route—especially if it’s one you travel frequently. What can you pay attention to that usually goes unnoticed by your conscious mind?
- Tie mindfulness to mundane daily tasks. Pick one daily task, like washing dishes or brushing your teeth, and stay fully present in the direct experience of the task. Note when your mind wanders and gently bring yourself back to your direct experience.
- Pay close attention the next time someone is speaking to you. Whether personal or professional, behave as though paying attention is the most fundamental expression of love or respect in your relationships. Stay fully present in the direct flow of energy and information, pulling yourself back to the other person’s words and expressions whenever your mind might begin to wander.
As you dig deeper into each of these practices, discover how you connect (or don’t) to each one. Don’t just focus on the narrative you tell yourself about the practice, but rather tune into the ways your body, mind, and soul connect to the practice and one another. I believe the space you create on your mat (or wherever you sit in silence with yourself) is the most sacred, holy space that anyone could ever be present and in communion with their most authentic self and others.
In other words, it’s worth the effort.
Shutting up and sitting is so much more than shutting up and sitting…
What I’m about to say might surprise you, but…
I have a problem with meditation.
I know, I KNOW! Me—the person constantly reminding you to shut up and sit has a problem with shutting up and sitting. At least, sort of.
If you’ve ever begun a meditation practice, only to realize that meditation “just isn’t for you,” you’re not alone. Of the countless forms of meditation to choose from, many folks just don’t resonate with the practice. I get it—meditation is hard! It can be scary. And boring. And there’s always something on Netflix you could be watching instead.
In fact, a 2014 study at Oxford researched the five most common reasons people don’t meditate. Believe it or not, I’ve heard them all before and more.
- Difficulty learning meditation.
Here’s the scene: you’re wearing your Lululemons and sitting on the cushion. All the lights are off, your Nag Champa incense is dropping ash all over your Berber rug, and the only thought running through your mind is: What the actual f**k am I’m doing here? You feel ridiculous. The idea you have about the “kind of person who meditations” and the image you have of yourself don’t align. That’s the end of that.
- Trouble experiencing the “self.”
If you’d rather undergo dental surgery than answer the question: Who am I? you’re not alone. Most people don’t have any idea how to begin to answer that question, let know what it’s like to truly live their lives present with the experience of their most authentic selves. If the idea of sitting in silence with such wildly existential a concept is uncomfortable, overwhelming, or downright panic-inducing, of course, you’re going to quit before you even begin.
- Psychological problems can be exacerbated.
So much of mindfulness is about learning to sit with your own suffering—something Western culture and the average human being, in general, will do practically anything to avoid. When you begin to meditate, one of the first things that can happen is all the feelings you’ve been avoiding and repressing suddenly start to bubble up and boil over. And that HURTS.
- Your reality is challenged.
Whatever it is you do and whoever it is you believe you are—a business owner, a boss, a spouse, a parent, a son or daughter, a leader—mindfulness asks you to examine who you are when you aren’t any of those things. For many people, that thought can be utterly terrifying.
- The problem of subjective happiness.
It’s nearly impossible to quantify joy on any universal level. Many people confuse other feelings—like relief, comfort, happiness, ecstasy, or intoxication—for joy and don’t even know how genuine joy feels. It’s entirely subjective. Every person who touts the success of their sitting practice will be experiencing something different from it because every psyche is unique.
The good news is if you believe meditation will improve your life (if only you could get it to stick!) and you’re committed to nurturing a sitting practice, I’ve got an easy technique for you to try whenever one of the above challenges completely derails your plan—and it’s something you can practice anytime, anywhere, both on and off the meditation cushion.
When faced with one of the struggles above—or any challenge, for that matter—instead of giving up on your practice or resorting to one of your less-than-healthy coping skills, pause and ask yourself this simple question: Can I sit with this discomfort for just one breath? Can I sit with it for five breaths? What about a minute?
At the core of all suffering are lessons and opportunities for growth. By breaking your discomfort down into small, breath-by-breath moments, you’ll protect yourself from taking all your suffering on, all at once, while offering yourself sustainable, incremental ways to grow and evolve your practice. Maybe the first time you try this technique, you’ll only be able to withstand two breaths. Hey, that’s great!
Next time, try three.
Can mindfulness REALLY be the key to total transformation?
In the work that I do, I’m often asked the question: Why mindfulness?
In other words, of all the things someone might try to heal, grow, rewire their limiting beliefs, transform their relationships, and overhaul their life, why this one practice?
The research on mindfulness—committing to a regular and consistent practice of shutting up and sitting—shows that it allows you to reduce stress, manage anxiety, fight addictions, improve sleep and control. It promotes emotional health and enhances self-awareness, decreases heart rate and blood pressure, reduces memory loss, and can even lengthen your attention span.
Some studies even show mindfulness helps generate kindness, compassion, and equanimity.
But despite any detailed studies or fancy terminology, mindfulness is nothing more than shutting up and sitting down to look within yourself and pay attention to yourself inside a meditative experience. It’s a practice that allows you to cultivate a relationship with yourself in which you connect with your wisdom and learn to live from your most authentic truth.
Let me demonstrate with a story…
At the beginning of 2021, over nine months into a global pandemic and in need of a change of scenery, I traveled to Monticello, Virginia, for a three-day silent, solo meditation retreat. When I arrived at my lemongrass-infused cottage, with a pre-planned retreat schedule provided by my meditation teacher in hand, I was determined to retreat “right.”
In other words, I was determined to prove what a badass I was at wellness.
I have spent my career in health and wellness, first as a personal trainer and currently as a consciousness coach and consultant and the author of Shut Up and Sit: Finding Silence and All the Life-Changing Magic that Comes with It. Really, I was only competing against myself.
On the first day of my retreat, from sunup to sundown, my schedule alternated between 30 minutes of sitting and 15 minutes of stretching, with two hour-long yoga practices in the morning and evening, one mid-day walk, and brief meals. I completed everything on the schedule one practice at a time, leaving satisfied little checkmarks next to each as I went: The sitting, the stretching, the yoga, the walk, the meals; repeat.
I am excellent at this, I thought to myself. Look at me go.
But by mid-morning on Day Two, my enthusiasm was starting to wane. Devoid of Wi-Fi, reliable cell service, or another human being to even glance at, I was itching for something—anything—to keep me motivated.
In my luggage, I’d packed a meditation headband that advertised benefits like promoting calm, increasing focus, improving sleep, and boosting the quality and control of your meditation practice—basically everything that meditation is designed to do, but up-leveled by a futuristic gadget and color-coordinated charts courtesy of a cell phone app. Resting the little black halo across my forehead and tucking two of its seven EEG sensors behind each ear, I began yet another 30-minute sit. After all, if meditating is replenishing and reenergizing, meditating while measuring five of my brainwaves in real-time—gamma, beta, alpha, theta, and delta—was bound to be even better.
There is a lot about the impacts of mindfulness and meditation that we still don’t understand—particularly in the global West. From 1970 to 2010, there were only around 200 studies on meditation conducted by Western researchers. Then, in 2019 alone, scientists conducted over 1000. There is evidence that mindfulness impacts human brainwaves, changing how we relate to our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, changing how we relate to the world. Yet, we have learned just enough to know we’ve only scratched the surface.
The terms “mindfulness” and “meditation” are often used interchangeably, but they are hardly the same; mindfulness is a form of meditation, but mindfulness is only one practice, while there are hundreds of different meditation practices. If you are brand new to either, at first glance, the breadth and depth of meditation practices can seem not only overwhelming but downright terrifying.
So, if you have ever begun a meditation practice, only feel that meditation “just isn’t for you,” you’re not alone. Studies on meditation have shown that people do not sit in still silence and learn to connect with themselves because it can be painful. In the beginning, all that awareness can even exacerbate any suffering or trauma. A 2014 study at Oxford researched the most common reasons people do not stick with a meditation practice. In addition to the potential exacerbation of trauma, they include things like difficulty learning meditation, trouble experiencing “the self,” challenged reality and the subjectivity of happiness.
That’s why I recommend mindfulness meditation as a more accessible, relatable, and enjoyable practice than the catch-all, wildly diverse array of techniques that “meditation” encompasses.
Unlike many other forms of meditation, the purpose of mindfulness is not to empty your mind or get one step closer to reaching enlightenment. By paying closer attention to yourself—asking questions like How do I really feel right now? Why did I just say that to that person? or Where did I learn this belief?—you can significantly increase your self-awareness. With that increased awareness, you can see more—and more objectively—more honestly assess what’s going on within and outside of yourself in any given situation and live your life with better clarity, truth, and authenticity. It’s a practice that allows you to cultivate a deeper and more honest relationship with yourself, in which you can connect with your wisdom and learn to live your truth into the world.
Mindfulness isn’t about accomplishing or achieving or reaching anything—it’s simply about noticing. It’s about paying attention, getting to know and understand your true self, so you can be your true self. That’s it.
So, if you’re one of the many who are searching for something—even if you’re not totally sure what that something is yet—and didn’t find it in meditation, you’re not alone. Just consider mindfulness instead.
Now, as it turned out, the meditation headband was pretty cool.
Except if you happen to be utterly alone in the Virginia woods on a silent meditation retreat.
Taking constant measurements, my headband cheerily recorded how many minutes my brain was active, neutral, and calm, rewarding each relaxed state by emitting a gentle bird chirp. After my headband-assisted sit, I could not wait to dive into the data. 179 instances of active brain activity and 63 bird chirps, it read.
That wasn’t going to do it for me.
Shifting directly into a judging mindset, I started to give myself a pep talk. I just have to meditate harder, I thought. I need more birds. I am better than 63. Over and over, I sat for 30-minute meditations, listening intently and practically willing the headband to chirp. Over and over, my results left much to be desired: 72 chirps, then 54, 58, 61, 67. I finally got so frustrated I tossed the headband onto my meditation cushion and, fuming, left the cabin to hit a trail.
As I walked, the voice of my inner critic walked with me. You’ve been doing this work for so long, she said. You should be better than this—better than 63 measly chirps.
Suddenly, trudging along, something caught my attention. I looked up and found myself in a gorgeous little clearing in the woods, deep in the Blue Mountains. Pausing, I stopped to take in my surroundings.
I had never heard so many birds chirping in my life.
They were everywhere, flitting from tree branch to tree branch, hopping along the earth, singing with their entire bodies, and taking little notice of my presence. I sat down right there on the chilly January ground, in the middle of it all.
It was as though the universe were saying: “You don’t need to make the birds chirp. That’s not what you’re here for. I take care of that.”
That is what mindfulness is all about.
*A version of this blog post first appeared as an article in Say AMOMĒ, a site dedicated to holistic wellness, particularly amid a global pandemic. You can find the original article, Which Form Of Meditation Is Right For You? here: https://sayamome.com/blog/struggling-with-meditation-try-mindfulness-instead.
It’s all about training your brain…
In 2012, my mom and I decided to enroll in a weekend workshop with Deepak Chopra in La Jolla, California.
It was just ninety-eight other people and us in a room with Deepak for four days. At the end of each session, people inundated him with requests for selfies or one-on-one time. He always said no.
On the last day of the workshop, I left a session and went to sit alone in the sunny courtyard behind the building. I was working through some painful feelings and looking for someplace to sit down and collect my thoughts.
At the height of my career, I still drank every day, and my marriage was about to end. I didn’t know it at the time, but my ego was driving everything I did.
I’d spent the last decade standing at the front of rooms, building a career telling other people what to do but never figuring out who I needed to be. That had never been more clear to me than it was sitting in that courtyard.
As I sat in the sun, I found myself sending out a last-ditch prayer out to the universe. I was filled with the knowledge that I needed to commit to transforming my life. I’m going to do it, I said to myself. This is it. I’m moving to the next level.
I had no idea what that promise meant or the amount of work it would require of me.
But the minute I finished my prayer, the back door to the courtyard opened, and out walked Deepak Chopra.
We spent a few minutes talking while he waited for his car to pick him up, and by the end of our conversation, he’d invited me to come study with him. And I said yes.
Still, just weeks after I got home from the workshop, my marriage ended. I had a complete breakdown on the deepest level of my being—filled with the darkest pain that I could ever imagine any human being having to go through. I confronted, head-on, my shadow self and began unpacking a lifetime of trauma, patterned beliefs, and destructive behaviors.
I started going to therapy and then hypnotherapy. I took a year off from work to do nothing but read. In the midst of it all, I kept reminding myself I’d made a commitment. I wasn’t stopping until I got to the other side—wherever that was.
I began learning to integrate the things I had experienced into my entire life in a healthier and nuanced way. I worked through trauma and began to feel more in alignment.
But my whole psyche had to be deconstructed and rebuilt, my limiting beliefs rewired, and my self-talk transformed. It took over six years to begin to step into that space of self-actualization—to finally let go of all the things that were limiting me.
Now, I’m not necessarily advocating for stopping right now, exactly where you are, and dismantling your entire life. (Unless, you know, that speaks to you. You know yourself best.) But if you’re interested in beginning the work of training your mind and transforming your life, there are a few things you can consider.
- Commit to one practice that incorporates ten minutes of mindfulness into your life each day.
- Start to challenge yourself to be more mindful and aware of how you are thinking. For example, as yourself: Do I generally think more positive thoughts or negative ones?
- Identify one new mindfulness resource you would like to implement into your daily or weekly routine.
As you explore the questions and challenges above, remember that repetition is one of the key ways to change a belief. You’ve got to start by picking a routine—however small, to start—and committing. I begin my day with meditation practice and time to journal. I write out affirmations, the things I’m grateful for, even mantras. (Pro tip: Writing is an excellent way to repattern beliefs because the physical act of writing fires neurons in your brain that help to create new pathways. The repetition of writing gets patterned into your brain until you can recall your new thoughts, even in moments of stress or chaos.)
Every morning I also wake up and high-five the universe. (Yep, in my pajamas and everything.) Because today, it feels like a miracle to be where I am. It is a miracle that demanded some of the most challenging work a person can do—but a miracle nonetheless.
Whether you know it or not, you’re unfolding right NOW…
For decades, so much of what I experienced in childhood lurked just under the surface of my daily life.
In my mid-twenties, married with a young son, I worked as a personal trainer, became an entrepreneur, started a corporate wellness business, and started an integrative medicine practice. I was earning a steady income, living in a beautiful house, married to a gorgeous husband, and raising a fantastic kid.
But underneath it all, I was in a dark place.
On the outside, I looked like I had it all, but I was suffering.
One evening as I stood at the front desk of the gym I managed, the phone rang. It wasn’t my job to answer the phone, so I never did. But I just happened to pick it up that night.
A woman was calling, desperate to find a personal trainer for a private client in Washington D.C. at 4 o’clock the following day. Now, that was about the last thing on earth I had any interest in doing, but she was so frantic and persistent that I took down her information and figured I’d find somebody else to do it.
The client turned out to be Dr. Ken Blanchard—someone I had never heard of before. But the client I had just finished training came out of the locker room as I ended the call and asked, “Did you say, Ken Blanchard?” She was holding a book in her hand, which she opened and slid across the counter to me. The book was Who Moved My Cheese, and Dr. Kenneth Blanchard, Ph.D., had written the foreword.
The entire drive home that night, I was flooded with thoughts about my life, my marriage, the path that lay ahead of me.
I am not a morning person. But four o’clock the following day found me standing in the lobby of a hotel in downtown Washington D.C. as Ken Blanchard stepped out of the elevator. Immediately, he greeted me with a question.
“Yedda, what’s your priority in life?”
Nobody in my life had ever asked me that, and I had no idea how to answer.
All I knew was the hell I’d been living in.
We spent four mornings together that week, and by Thursday, Ken had given me copies of all his books. In exchange for training him each morning before the workshop he was co-hosting, he invited me to attend a seminar on servant leadership with the top fifty CEOs in Richmond,
I said yes. All I could keep thinking about was that I couldn’t believe someone like Dr. Ken Blanchard had offered something like that to someone like me―someone who had once been a high school dropout.
Six months later, I attended the workshop. I met fifty of the top CEOs in Richmond in an intimate setting. After that workshop, I knew I needed to change my life. I decided to go back to school. I earned a four-year degree and an MBA. I became the first person in my family to graduate college, earn a Master’s degree, and own their own business.
But the entire time, I felt like an impostor.
I was still stuck in the belief that I was nothing more than “a high school dropout.” Every single time I stepped into a room to teach, coach, or give a talk, I didn’t believe I had anything to offer anyone. I felt I should just be grateful to be there because who was I anyway?
But I kept showing up.
I kept saying yes.
I kept learning.
I began to unfold into my most authentic self.
As you begin to do the work of mindfulness, you’ll be amazed at how you begin to unfold into your most authentic self. But that unfolding happens in stages.
- Victim Mindset: In the first stage of unfolding, you believe something outside yourself determines your destiny, giving up your power to someone or something else. Your perceptions are creating your reality, and the stories you tell yourself keep you a victim of the external circumstances of your life.
- Manifesting: Here, you learn to take responsibility for your thoughts, words, and actions. You discover that your thoughts—which are simply mental units of energy—become instrumental in manifesting your intentions.
- Channeling: As you grow, unfold, and evolve towards a newer, higher level of consciousness, you understand that a larger force and purpose is at work through you. You allow it, surrendering to life feeling and being good.
- Being present: Finally, you find ease and simplicity in just being yourself, in each present moment. You nurture the feeling that all the universe is one, connected, and infinite—yourself included. You sense that you are connected to and are just like everyone else. You awaken to the power of contributing to sharing your new awareness with others by simply living your life in the present.
Eventually, if you commit to a mindfulness practice long enough, you’ll arrive at a place of radical presence and awareness. You’re able to operate joyfully from your most authentic self, and that’s the space from which all freedom arises.
What if you’ve misunderstood what it takes to be successful all along?
When an Eastern philosophy like mindfulness becomes globalized, there’s a tendency—particularly in Western cultures—to feel like we’re doing it “wrong.” This is true of practically everything—the sense that we must live up to an ideal standard in all that we do. But, of all the places to seek success via perfection, mindfulness is the LAST.
While the drive to achieve success can be inspired by feelings like passion, love, and commitment, all too often, folks operate from a belief system limited by perfectionism and “not-enoughness.” On the other hand, mindfulness is all about cultivating a mindset of “enoughness”—precisely as you are, right now. In other words: not perfect.
What I’m about to say might blow your mind, but… You do need to be perfect to be “successful.”
You just need to be YOU.
That’s where mindfulness can help.
Ask yourself this: What if “success” meant nothing more than your ability to remove all the barriers that prevent you from fully embracing and experiencing the present moment? What if you believed that the forces around you were working together in service to your highest benefit?
How might the way you live your life and how you work to achieve success change?
Once you begin operating from the belief that the definition of success is the ability to remove all barriers preventing you from fully embracing and experiencing the present moment, you’ll discover there are only three critical strategies for achieving success.
Yep. Just three.
- Start by awakening to your highest potential.
Most people barely understand the true nature of their highest potential, let alone how to awaken it. Often, standing in the way are lifelong beliefs around fear of rejection and low self-worth. Don’t waste time asking yourself: Who am I to be great? Instead, consider: who are you NOT to be?
- Celebrate your life as it is in the present moment.
Most people who cling to their suffering do so out of familiarity and a subconscious sense of identity. So many of us don’t celebrate our lives because we’re too busy putting our pain on a pedestal. But what if everything in your life is happening FOR you, instead of TO you? Celebrate the “is-ness” of that—accepting and embracing what your life is right now.
- Prioritize doing what brings you joy.
Far too many folks I know have a hard time grasping what genuine joy feels like, let alone how to achieve it in the first place. Too often, we confuse joy with things like cocktails, some random person on social media telling us all the things we want to hear, or achieving a huge promotion that requires us to sacrifice every other area of our life outside of work. But put simply, joy is—and only ever is—the highest vibration on the Emotional Guidance Scale. It must be generated from INSIDE of you, not outside.
The idea is that awakening to your highest potential, celebrating your life as it is in every moment, and centering what brings you joy lead to being completely and unequivocally present. In that case, let’s take the true definition of success one step further—beyond just removing the barriers that lead to complete and total presence.
What if the definition of success is as simple as experiencing joy?
Aka: the physics of changing your mind.
Anytime you’re seeking a shift in your life—be it a pesky habit or a pivotal belief, something minor or seismic—there’s going to be a shift in your energy. I’m not just talking about the power that propels you out of bed in the morning or gets you through that last mile on the treadmill (although your alertness and physical stamina might be impacted too.)
But I’m talking about energy changing on a physics and metaphysics level.
There’s a formula that captures this shift perfectly:
In other words, the intention you’re setting (or goal you’re aspiring to, or commitment you’re making) generates the activation energy required to create the change you want to make. When it comes to changing your beliefs, the intention you set and the activity you attend to should correspond to the results you want to see in your life—the belief you want to fall away and the one you want to nurture to replace it. The energy you put into both your intention (the idea you want to change) and the attention (the work you do to rewrite your belief) have to be in alignment, focused on your goal of belief change and what is necessary for you to get you closer to it.
Sound a little too “woo” for you? Think again. These are fundamental energetic shifts you must go through, and they occur on a physics level. Consider all the energy that went into building your beliefs in the first place. Over time, these physical and metaphysical changes took place in your body and mind to imbed a particular idea into your subconsciousness. In a way, you must reverse that process to evoke change, walking yourself back through each belief building block to dismantle it and build something new.
It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible either.
There are ten energetic shift processes to belief change—and like it or not, you can’t skip ’em.
As you begin to radically change your beliefs, practice centering activities to ground yourself as the center of your reality. Changing your beliefs includes evolving your belief-building process to operate from a grounded center.
Once centered in your reality, you’ll attract things that you already are or develop sensitivities to things that exist on new vibrations or different frequencies from what you’ve been used to—and you need these to grow and evolve. Get curious and ask yourself: Is this where I want to be, or do I want a different experience?
Understanding and addressing any latent thoughts and ideas within you is required to emerge and expand into a larger universe. When these beliefs start to make themselves known to your conscious mind, begin to ask: What if? I wonder what life could look like if…? Consider: What do I want to do on this Earth?
It can be all too easy to build a norm around asking yourself questions and forgetting to actually answer them. Homeostasis is the process of organizing and maintaining the new behaviors and values you have acquired with your new beliefs, resulting in a new level of consciousness. Through homeostasis, you can reach a new level of consciousness. If the beliefs you hold here are healthy, you can hang out in the space of homeostasis for a while—maybe for the rest of your life.
A cataclysm is precisely what it sounds like: the breakdown of old energy and habits necessary to lead to a breakthrough. You must dismantle and dissolve old energy and patterns to change them. Nearly everyone experiences some type of cataclysm, whether in habits or health, family dynamics, friendships and other relationships, in one’s career or finances. Cataclysm is where you arrive at the seat of your suffering—and it’s also where most people return to the old familiar, fighting to maintain their homeostasis. Cataclysm is the place where mindfulness and the willingness to sit in silence―even when it’s filled with suffering—is more crucial than ever. If you’re able to sit in silence for even just one or two minutes, you’ll begin to realize your suffering is a path, not a roadblock.
This is when you’ll begin to discover mutually enhancing relationships being created in your life. In other words, the universe will provide the people, teachers, and other resources you need to protect and guide you on the other side of the cataclysm. Once you’re through the breakdown, new particles and energy frequencies come together to guide you into a new level of awareness.
Transmutation requires the significant inner change that leads to real growth and evolution towards a new belief system. The energetic shift of transmutation is how all changes occur over time. Once synergy starts, transmutation occurs. The transmutation of energy allows you to let go of the thoughts that no longer serve you, creating space where you can begin to put new beliefs in place.
Transformation is recognizing having changed on an individual level, which ultimately leads to change on a universal level of consciousness. As you personally being to transform, you begin to transform your entire reality too. Your outer world begins to reflect your inner shifts.
It’s essential to participate in activities that nurture and honor your growth and evolution through the energetic shift processes. Allow yourself to tend to and care for the new energy you’ve generated.
In physics, when energy shifts, the light released is called radiance. Radiance is light released from inside you, entirely generated by your new beliefs. In radiance, you enter into resonance with the entire universe. Your new belief system creates a radiance that others can sense. (And seriously, who doesn’t want to radiate light and joy?)
Diving into these energetic shifts is where the quantum physics or mindfulness practices really starts to become apparent. Mindfulness says: Come and sit with yourself, in the seat of silence, and I promise you that you can sit with this suffering. If you do, wild transformation emerges.
As a coach and consultant, I don’t just firmly believe that we all can do this; I’ve personally lived it and witnessed it. Many people have spent their lives building armor around their radiant light because somebody, somewhere, told them that they couldn’t shine. But every person possesses the seeds of greatness that allow them to radiate.
Life happens in the present…
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: mindfulness is not for the faint of heart.
If you decide you’re going to wake up and live a life of conscious awareness—working to maintain that awareness with every thought you have and every feeling you feel—you’re going to become exhausted quickly. The human mind just can’t do it.
That’s where mindfulness comes in, offering a shortcut directly through your brain, past your consciousness, and into your subconscious mind. By shutting up and sitting, you begin to achieve a theta brainwave state where you can start to pattern new thoughts over the old ones that are no longer working for you.
But it’s important to understand what obstacles might be preventing present-moment awareness.
There are three ways most people typically prevent themselves from being fully aware in the present moment:
- Ingrained emotional responses based on past experiences.
Aka your beliefs, thoughts, and feelings. When an experience triggers a response, your brain immediately wants to bypass mindfulness training and kick into survival mode. In a stress state, the subconscious creates thoughts that can generate emotional reactions that may not directly relate to the experience itself.
- An inability to accurately hear what someone is saying based on expectations of what’s next.
We’ve all done it before: spent an entire conversation waiting to talk and rehearsing our response, rather than fully listening to the other person. But by immediately making subconscious assumptions about a person or a situation based purely on thoughts and beliefs—rather than what someone is actually saying or doing—you’re cutting yourself off from present reality.
- Misinterpreting emotional signals due to an ongoing narrative in your mind.
When emotions kick in, it’s easy to stop listening. But when you filter the facts of a situation through your own beliefs, you’ll miss the actual data presented. Often, confirmation bias kicks in, leaving you to only accept any data that supports what’s already in your mind.
These three barriers to present moment awareness are why so many folks just live their lives in old habits, broken patterns, and rote memory. Presence is accessed when you’re not creating these barriers from the protective mechanism of the ego-driven self.
Awareness can be achieved when you stop being intoxicated by the fears, stories, and limiting beliefs stored in your subconscious.
I believe the world is in the middle of a great awakening—especially in the West. The challenges to grow our consciousness are abundant, but there are also more opportunities than ever to do so. When faced with the challenges, stay in the present nonreactive moment and watch the challenge dissolve.
You don’t need to make everything a long, archeological dig into your psyche and past to be fully present. You just need to practice mindfulness enough to identify where your patterns and present-moment barriers originated to remind yourself they’re not serving you, and you can let them go. You can pull autopilot patterning into consciousness and mindfully, with loving-kindness and compassion, sit with the pattern.
Then present-moment awareness happens.
Then, you live there.
Which One Will You Try This Week?
There’s this quote that I love…
– Oriah Mountain Dreamer
It summarizes everything right and necessary about letting go—about the power of surrendering.
But people don’t just struggle with letting go of the positive things in their life. Counterintuitive as it may sound, many of us have a hard time letting go of suffering too. Painful as it may be, some people are downright attached to their burdens—attached to living in past wounds or future anxiety.
In other words: the exact opposite of living in the present moment.
When it comes to mindfulness, you cannot grit your teeth trying to live in the present, nor can you will your way into awareness and awakening. Accessing present moment freedom requires two things: flexibility of attention and receptivity of intention, allowing for present moment awareness while not worrying about what’s coming next. You must set the intention to be receptive—to remain open to whatever comes.
It’s letting go of what is while accepting what’s next.
When you’re in that space, you’re present. You’ve surrendered to the universe and opened yourself up to any and every possibility. The good news is, we all can achieve that freedom. But we can’t access it through willpower alone.
One of the ways you can cultivate presence and begin to write a new narrative for your life is by asking yourself the kinds of deep questions you’re probably not going to think of on your own, as you’re just living your daily, pattern-filled life. The 12 questions below are designed to take you off autopilot and put you in the present moment, igniting awareness and giving you the space to experience wonder.
Each of the 12 questions to guide you to the present moment contains a pause to connect with yourself and your thinking and start developing familiarity and comfort with the unknown. They open the door to introducing new thoughts into your mind and creating new beliefs on a conscious level.
Ready to give it a try?
Check out these 12 questions to guide you to the present moment:
- Will this choice propel me toward an inspiring future, or will it keep me stuck in the past?
- Will this choice bring me long-term fulfillment, or will it bring me short-term gratification?
- Am I standing in my power, or am I trying to please another?
- Am I looking for what’s right, or am I looking for what’s wrong?
- Will this choice add to my life force, or will it rob me of my energy?
- Will I use this situation as a catalyst to grow and evolve, or will I use it to beat myself up?
- Does this choice empower me, or does it disempower me?
- Is this an act of self-love, or is it an act of self-sabotage?
- Is this an act of faith or fear?
- Am I choosing to act from my higher self, or am I acting from my ego?
- What am I forcing to happen here?
- What wants to be created through me?
Seems simple enough, right? But for these questions to work effectively, the key is to sit with them in the space of meditation or mindfulness, allowing them to drop deeper into your subconscious. At first, you’ll have to ask yourself the questions deliberately. But soon enough, you’ll find yourself facing a particular situation when suddenly you’ll hear a little voice in your head asking: is this an act of faith or fear? Am I choosing to act from my higher self, or am I acting from my ego?
Just like that, you’ll find yourself returning to the present moment. That’s where your life starts to change.
This is what is…
In my late teens, after dropping out of high school and getting discharged from the military, I answered an ad for a nannying position.
I was feeling defeated. I didn’t think I knew how to do much, but I knew how to take care of babies, practically parenting my younger siblings growing up.
Then I met the man I would marry. He was a contractor and who showed up one day at the home where I nannied, with the most gorgeous blue eyes and brightest smile I’d ever seen in my life. He whisked me away on his motorcycle. Then, ironically, he joined the military just weeks after we got married.
Talk about deep patterning.
At the time, I was convinced my past was behind me. I was married, then I was pregnant, and then I had my son. It looked like a normal life to me. For a while, I even felt like I’d won the lottery.
Things began to unravel. Cracks started to show. My past began showing up, and I didn’t want to deal with it. I thought that I’d married the wrong person—because, with the right person, my past would just dissolve, right?
But, that was the same pattern I’d observed in my own family.
What followed were some very tough, unhealthy, intense years. We fought viciously. We separated and got back together. We moved around the United States, but our dysfunction followed us because it always does. But I was willing myself to make it work.
I thought if I just had enough determination and enough willpower, I could force things to work out.
Many people think if they just possess the “willpower” to be disciplined, control their unresolved trauma and dysfunction, and deny themselves what they desire, they can change their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. But that’s just not how it works.
My marriage was never going to work because I hadn’t done my work. I just spent years burying our issues and repeating the unhealthy behaviors that had been patterned into me.
Here’s the secret: you’re never going to feel like it.
That career change you want to make? That fitness routine you want to start? That 5:00 a.m. meditation practice you know your day needs? That hall closet you’ve meant to clean out since 2014?
You’re NEVER GOING TO FEEL LIKE DOING IT.
They’re things you know in your heart would be good for you; they’re all things you even want to do—at least, theoretically. But if you’re waiting to act until you feel like getting started, chances are you never will.
You’re never going to feel like doing all the healthy, habit-forming, life-changing things you know you need to do because you don’t yet hold the belief that drives the thought that creates the feeling of wanting to do something, which then inspires the behavior and makes a habit. And how do you wind up forming the belief that drives the thought that creates the feeling of wanting to do something, which then inspires the behavior of actually doing it?
By actually DOING IT.
When you’re operating from old patterns and belief systems, you’re just like an animal that won’t leave its cage even after the door has been opened—more comfortable to stay within the circle of the familiar than to take a risk.
Whether you’re changing your career or setting your alarm clock an hour earlier each morning, taking the leap only feels good once you’ve taken it. But you’re never going to feel good standing on the precipice of change because that’s where all the fear, doubt, and risk is. Once you take action, all of the forces of the universe come together on a metaphysical level to support you because you’ve committed to the energy of creating something new.
That’s how your life begins to change.
1, 2, 3… Om…
I was sixteen years old when I dropped out of high school—a rebellious, angry kid who smoked, drank, and was always partying a lot. I didn’t have the dreams I thought other young people had for their futures.
I didn’t even know how to dream.
So, I wound up getting in a lot of trouble. Arrested at seventeen, I had the option to go to jail or join the military, and I chose the military. But it was a nightmare. From the minute I arrived at basic training, I was ready to call my mom and get out of there. Of course, that wasn’t going to happen.
Then the U.S. invaded Iraq, starting the Iraq War. Terrified, I asked anyone who would listen to me what I had to do to get out of there. I didn’t care how they talked to me; I didn’t care what they threatened me with—I was going to do anything to get out.
After Basic Training, an Army chaplain mentioned that an Article 15 would get me discharged. The list of things a soldier can do to get an Article 15 include getting arrested, getting pregnant, getting a tattoo, refusing to show up to formation, even getting severely sunburnt.
I did practically all of them.
Then I decided to shoplift from the PX—the on-base military retail store—to get arrested. One afternoon I walked in, looked directly at the security guard, grabbed a ring from a case, put it in my pocket, and walked out the door. Of course, they stopped me and called the military police. All of a sudden, I started thinking that maybe I’d gone too far.
What if they put me in Fort Leavenworth?
Unbelievably, after some creative thinking, I got out of it. They realized I wasn’t going to give up—I was going to do anything to get discharged. I met with my commander, and ultimately, they discharged me and sent me home.
As relieved as I was, I also remember getting home and feeling worthless. Between leaving the military and my dad dying, something in me clicked.
I realized if I kept living the way I was living, it was going to kill me.
I needed to free myself.
Mindfulness is all about learning to sit with our “is-ness”—that essence of whomever we are, whatever we’re doing, and whoever it is we want to be. If we can learn to sit with our own is-ness, we can learn to sit with the is-ness of others, too. That’s the equanimity of mindfulness that ultimately frees us all. It’s the idea that: I’m just sitting here, containing where I’m at and what I’m experiencing, which allows me to let you do the same thing.
My story is a perfect example—I teach people how to free themselves because I learned to free myself.
When you’re ready to free yourself, consider these three steps to inner freedom:
- Flow with whatever comes.
- Use what comes to your advantage.
- Learn to be completely self-sufficient: “Create your own earthquake.” Then your mental process feeds itself inspiration without the need for outside stimuli.
If you practice mindfulness long enough, at some point, you finally realize you’re grateful for everything that’s happened to you because it’s taught you to be different, or better, or more.
That’s true freedom.