Everything we need to know we already have the answer to.
We know if the person we are dating is a good partner for us. We know if our job is right for us. We know if we want to go out for dinner or stay in. We may not be cognitively aware of the answer, but some part of us knows and we can become aware of the answer if we take the time to cultivate a deeper awareness and understanding of our whole self. When we are more in tune with all aspects of ourselves, we will naturally become much more aware of our needs and can respond to them when they are a whisper rather than a scream. Deepening awareness of oneself mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually is getting to understand one’s whole self much more intimately.
Our systems are all connected. However, most of us have a much stronger awareness of our thinking self than our other systems and so naturally we rely on our thoughts and logic to guide us. Often this works well, but if we consult all parts of our self we will be able to care for our whole self. As a simple example, if our thinking self is saying, “You don’t need to eat. We are going out for dinner in two hours and eating now might ruin dinner”, but our physical self is experiencing a mild headache and low energy and our emotional self is feeling a persistent, low-level irritation, then perhaps not eating based on logic alone is not a healthy choice. Sometimes our physical sensations are a hint to what we are feeling and thinking. Sometimes our emotions are a hint to what we are thinking and feeling in our bodies. And sometimes our thoughts are a hint to how we are emotionally and physically feeling. Learning to listen to all three is important.
Find a quiet time of the day when you can take a minute or two to be alone. Lay down and take a few deep belly breaths. Inhale slowly through your nose for about 3 seconds. Hold for about 3 seconds. And exhale through your mouth for about 6 slow seconds. This is called 3-6 breathing. Continue for several breaths until the rhythm becomes natural. This might not happen the first few times you attempt this exercise and that is perfectly okay. Feel, or even watch, your belly rise and slowly lower with each inhale and exhale. Notice the nature of the air as it moves in and out. Notice sensations in your body. Try not to judge or let any of these observations take over. Just notice them and let them be.
After developing a comfort practicing with phase 1, you may be ready to begin adding another step. Again, start by taking a few breaths to find the rhythm of your 3-6 breath and then when you are feeling quite relaxed, begin to notice any emotion that is arising. Sadness, calmness, stress, anxiety, happiness, love, etc. All emotions are natural and deserve to be recognized. Just spend a little time with the emotion you have discovered, however small it might be. Notice where this emotion likes to sit in your body. Is it gathering in your belly, chest, head? What is the nature of the sensation? See if you can offer that emotion some of your attention by breathing into the part of your body that is holding the emotion. With each breath notice how the emotion shifts, relaxes. Breathe into the emotion and non-judgmentally give it your loving attention.
If paying attention to emotion becomes overwhelming please discontinue. This exercise may not be suitable for those who are in process of recovering from a trauma. This exercise should not be too uncomfortable.