How to Stop the War on Yourself & Be Empowered by Non-violence 

11219120_10208130040558591_2277323543183753638_nWe all desire peace in the world, but then why do we wage war on ourselves? We all aspire to be non-violent, but then harm ourselves in subtle ways all the time.

Gandhi said, “non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind.” Last week as we explored how to actively practice non-violence in my yoga lifestyle programs, I was remind how truly powerful this principle is.

Ahimsa, non-violence, and the first principle of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, means so much more than just abstaining from violent acts, but means cultivating an attitude of kindness, caring and compassion toward all things. That’s right, ALL things! And this my friend includes the neighbour you detest, your cranky boss but most importantly YOURSELF!

Most of us think, “sure I’m non-violent, I don’t carry weapons or beat people up.” But those are obvious forms of violence that, while horrible, may have less impact than the insidious forms of violence we all tend to act out each day.

As promoters of peace in the world we must first remember that peace begin with ourselves. 

I know when I’m being highly self critical I tend to judge others more harshly. When I’m overly tired and not taking care of myself I don’t have energy to give to, care for and be as kind to others. When I’m battling with my body I rarely treat it well or feel my best in the world.

On the other hand, when I’m well rested, nourished and self loving I naturally act this way to the people around me. I have more energy for others and for my dreams. I’m more productive and creative and my positive impact on the world increases.

The opposite of self violence is self care and self love. 

When we are not caring for and loving ourselves we are actually performing acts of violence —small, subtle acts of violence that accumulatively have a massive impact on our health and the world.

The World Health Organisation now names lifestyle diseases like cancers, heart disease and diabetes as the number one killers in the world. It’s not war waged with guns and tanks, but a subtle war we all wage on ourselves when we choose lifestyles that harm us.

We see this subtle war on ourselves through poor nutrition, drug and alcohol abuse; through depriving ourselves of sleep in order to chase achievement and “success”; perfectionism and seriously damaging self criticism, eating disorders and body dismorphia; through pushing our bodies too hard or not listening to them.

Basically, through wearing ourselves out and not honouring and appreciating this body that carries us through life. This is the opposite of Ahimsa, non-violence, and it disempowers us as individuals and as a society.

The more we practice non-violence by taking care of ourselves the better we impact the world. 

The bazaar thing is that we often feel guilty about taking care of ourselves, like it’s a luxury. But if you really think about the cost of self neglect on your health, productivity, relationships, creativity and greater cost to society, you’ll realise this is no luxury — it’s a responsibility!

Start practicing non-violence and taking better care of yourself right now! Here’s how: 

  1. Identify one subtle act or habit of self violence that you’d like to change this week. This could be anything like putting yourself down, drinking that extra glass of wine that makes you feel drained, going to bed too late or over eating junk food.
  1. Think about what you get out of this self violent habit. We only do anything because we get something out of it, even if it’s bad for us. When we want to break a bad habit we have to replace it with something that gives us a similar benefit but doesn’t cause us harm. So get clear on what benefit you get from this habit. It could be comfort, stimulation, distraction, motivation.
  1. Pick a replacement that has a similar benefit but doesn’t harm you. For example, if I over eat to the extreme every night when I’m alone to feel comforted, I could choose to do a self loving and comforting practice like oil massage or reading inspiring quotes, or calling a friend before I eat dinner at night. That way I feel comforted by something other than food.
  1. Make a personal dedication to non-violence with yourself. For example, my dedications is: I am dedicated to believing in myself, loving myself and knowing that I am worthy of love no matter what my imperfections are.

Enjoy (and trust me you will, practicing this makes everyone feel so much happier)!!

Please share with us your personal dedication to non-violence with yourself! 

The Grocery Stores Have Gone, What Now?!

Tomorrow I’ll be teaching a free class as part of the local Earth Hour celebration in collaboration with World Wildlife Fund and Manly Council. This year’s theme is “Planet to Plate” which is all about exploring how and what we eat impacts the health of our planet. I wrote this blog on the exact topic last year, and also on how food/earth consciousness impacts our health, not just physically but mentally and spiritually. I thought it only fitting to re-blog this post. Hope to see you all at the Earth Hour event tomorrow, or simply showing your solidarity by turning all lights off from 8-9pm. Enjoy a candle light dinner! xo Morgan

Yoga with Morgan Webert

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What would you do if you woke up and all grocery stores were shut down, emptied out and there was no place to buy food? Would you know how to feed yourself?

I’d frantically run to all my friend’s who have veggie patches and beg for seeds and off shoots or be left to subsist on the herbs living in my kitchen window. I can only laugh at how long it might take me to catch a fish, and might try harvesting some wild edibles but worry about which one’s were safe.

Wow, this could be the most effective weight loss program ever!

But seriously, I’ve been fascinated this week thinking about how so few of us in the West actually know how to source food from nature. In other words, many of us don’t know how to feed ourselves.

We don’t know how to provide one of the basic…

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The Tongue Never Lies

images-3While we might let slip a few white lies across our tongue from time to time, the surface of our tongue can’t help but speak the truth.

In Ayurveda, the traditional medicine system of India, the tongue is considered the emissary of the digestive tract. I like thinking of it like that, a representative or spokesperson, non-opinionated simply reporting what is.

The tongue reports the facts to us about what we’re eating through our tastes but it also reports facts to us about how we’re digesting what we’ve eating and if the organs are functioning properly.

This last form of reporting takes a little bit of translating, but once you get the hang of it, it’s one of the coolest and most informative daily practices from the Ayurvedic tradition.

It’s called Ayurvedic Tongue Diagnosis, and while Ayurvedic doctors can read a great deal into how the tongue looks, any person can get a useful daily read on their health simply by learning the basics. This should become a regular tool for any yogi.

The tongue reports on our state of digestion and health through it’s appearance. 

The digestive tract and organs are mapped out on the tongue and so it tells a tale of health or imbalance in any of these areas through colour, texture, coating, moisture, shape, smell and more (see info-graphic and charts below).

Ayurveda recognises that anything we don’t digest accumulates in our body and then becomes toxic. This accumulation is called Ama, and when we sleep at night the body works to eliminate ama, particularly through the membrane system of our body.

We see this as goop in our eyes or mucus in our nose or stool. The tongue is also a membrane and the white coating that appears on it each morning is considered ama, or toxicity, that the body is processing and pushing out.

As Dr. Bruce Fife, author of The Detox Book put it, “Your tongue can reveal how much toxic material is stored in your cells and vital organs. The tongue is a mirror of the membrane system of your body.”

Paying attention to the quality of this ama appearing on our tongue can reveal a great deal and help us make day to day choices that direct us back into balance.

Research Your Tongue Every Morning! 

A great practice to get in the habit of is sticking your tongue out first thing in the morning and checking out how it looks. Do this before you drink water or brush your teeth to get the best reading of what your body was processing through sleep.

Then compare what you’re seeing in the mirror with the Tongue Diagnosis Charts (see below).

Things to think about when checking our your tongue:

  • What colour is it?
  • Is the coating evenly distributed across your tongue or accumulated in particular areas?
  • Does it smell?
  • Is it dry or moist? Frothy?
  • What do the edges look like? Smooth or scalloped?
  • Are there red bumps or patches? Where?
  • Are there cracks? Where?

Compare this information to the charts and graphs and start taking action to bring yourself back into balance based on what you see.

Spend a week drawing your tongue, what you observe and how it changes. I love this practice not only to help me monitor my body but also because sticking out my tongue in the morning makes me laugh to myself.

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Tongue Scrapping

After you’ve listened to what the tongue is telling you about your health, scrap that toxic ama off it with a metal tongue scrapper rather than swallowing it back into the system. Lightly scrap from back to front 5-7 times. Notice the color of the ama on the tongue scrapper.

Tongue scrapping is a simple Ayurvedic oral hygiene practice done every morning before drinking water.

Doing this on a regular basis will also heighten our sense of taste and increase the intelligence of our tongue. The more intelligent our tongue, the healthier food we eat and the better we feel.

Tell us what you’ve discovered through checking out your tongue this week!?

What Healed Me, Sustainability and Community

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I fell in love with yoga over a decade ago when I was 18 years old, new to Uni, struggling with an autoimmune disorder, anxiety, bouts of depression and the stress of working and going to school full time.

All I knew was that when I did yoga I felt better. My symptoms decreased, I slept better, ate better, my body hurt less and as a result I felt happier and less worried.

At the time I thought I couldn’t get too much of a good thing, so I went crazy on yoga, doing two hour practices every morning, trying to follow all the yoga lifestyle rules and obsessing on what I ate or did.

But I’d always hit a wall. It would be too extreme. I’d isolate myself from my friends, feel like I couldn’t keep it up, get overwhelmed, and then rebel against it and quit for a while.

That is until all my symptoms started to show up again, and then I’d throw myself at it again and swear I was going to run away to live in an ashram.

I had found yoga, but the truth is, I hadn’t yet found what would heal me. 

One day in one of my rebellious “I can’t live like a yogi” phases I saw my yoga teacher. I was meek and apologised for not coming to class every morning and mumbled some excuses.

I thought for sure he would scold me for not being dedicated, but instead he told me to be easier on myself. That if I really wanted to make yoga part of my life, I didn’t have to go to the extremes. He told me to do less, but more consistently.

Sustainable Lifestyles  

It hit me hard (in the best possible way) and I suddenly started to shift my idea of what living a yoga lifestyle meant. I started thinking about it more in terms of sustainability. I even had one of those Homer Simpson “duh” moments, I was studying environmental sustainability at Uni after all.

The lesson comes that when we make small changes we stick to them, and when we stick to things for the long haul, that’s when our life really starts to change. It might not happen over night, but it happens in a big way that lasts. And that is what’s healed me.

This is why I’m so passionate about the yoga lifestyle programs I teach, because I know that what people really need to change their lives is a formate and plan to make these habits practical and sustainable.

Both the 30 Day Yoga Evolution and the 10 Week Transformation Programs do just that. We workshop and plan how to live a yoga lifestyle in the modern world, not in a cave and that genuinely works for us as individuals. After all, our practice is supposed to help us live a happy life, not become another burden.

Community

I’ve also learned that when we go it alone, making changes to our life is so much harder.

Sangha is the Sanskrit word for “community of like minded people” and is an essential part of yoga.   When we surround ourselves with like minded people we feel supported and empowered in living the way we want to live.

And in our modern culture we really need this because living a more relaxed, healthy, peaceful and harmonious life goes against what the media giants are bombarding us with on a daily basis. We need to come together and use our collective strength to move against that cultural current.

One thing I’ve heard from the people who participated in the 30 Day Yoga Evolution was how inspired they were by each other. How simply the act of sharing, exploring and diving deep into discussion with like minded people is transformational.

I also see this exact same magic happen on the Bali Yoga retreats I teach, and honestly I think it is one of the most powerful aspects of the experience. In fact, this is exactly what I want to facilitate — transformation through the gathering of like minded people all supporting each other along a journey of ever more conscious living.

Let’s have the conversations that inspire us, in class, online, in a group or over a coconut in Bali.

To What Drum Beat Do You Dance? 

 

 

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Many of you know that I’ve been jet setting like there’s no tomorrow over the past two months between my Bali yoga retreats and going back to America. And man, only now being back in my regular daily routines am I seeing what a huge positive effect they have on my energy levels and overall health.

Since diving head first into a 9 month Ayurvedic course over a year ago I’ve learned so much more about health and wellness — but the number one thing I’ve gained from these studies is a grasp on the importance of daily routines and the profound impact these simple daily practices have on our health, energy and happiness.

Dinacharya, the Daily Rhythms

The Ayurvedic system calls these daily health practices dinacharya, or “daily rhythms.” As a dancer I like the idea of rhythm and going through the daily routines like moving to a beat that’s both logical and expressive.

All people naturally follow a daily rhythm of one kind or another, repeating the patterns of the day or week. But, what Ayurveda teaches us (and what has changed my life) is learning how to dance our daily routines to the rhythms of nature, both around and within us.

Sadly, much of our culture dances to the modern rhythm of a frantic, consumeristic, media crazed and often erratic beat that is discordant with our own internal rhythms and those of the natural world around us.

We often wake up each morning already feeling behind. We then drink coffee to catch up, race around to get the kids to school, go to work and push ourselves to make deadlines. We consume more sugar and coffee to keep up, with no time to rest or exercise and often struggle with going to bed at night to get the sleep we so desperately need because we’re reciting the todo list of the next day.

Rather than feeling like we’re moving through life with grace and expression, we feel like we’re one step behind and always tripping up or bumping up against issues. It’s hard to be happy when we’re tripping and bumping into things, and not only that, after a while we end up with bruises or worse.

Those bruises are showing up in our culture today as the many lifestyle diseases that come from too much stress such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity, autoimmune disorders, chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety and many other issues that are becoming more and more common.

We get bruised and bumped because even if we want to dance to the modern erratic rhythm, our body biologically functions best in rhythm with nature.

I get it. The beat of modern culture is really loud. 

It’s hard to hear our own inner rhythm or that of nature’s amidst car horns, blaring advertising, mourgages, deadlines, children and bills.

What’s more, non of us live in caves, or plan to for that matter. So, what’s to be done? How do we hear our own natural rhythms and those of nature amongst the cacophony of stressful noise?

What I’ve found, and been taught through the Yogic and Ayurvedic traditions, is that it’s all about creating small, daily routines that keep us in synch with a pace of life that make us thrive. We can take small steps that slowly integrate our modern lives with our ancient biological heritage.

We don’t have to run away from modern culture to feel healthy, but we do have to engage with it more consciously. Part of that conscious engagement is learning some of the basic rhythms of nature that man has been living by for thousands of years and observing how we’ve strayed from tham in the past 100 or so years.

The Ayurvedic tradition breaks the day into six time periods that are each dominated by different elements. All of nature responds to the elemental quality of that time of day, and so do we.

As such, we can either do things that are appropriately suited to that time of day (like letting ourselves get sleepy as the sky darkens and wind down) or not so appropriately suited (like drinking/eating something stimulating to stay up later and not letting our body rest).

The fact is, the more we do things that are out of synch with nature’s rhythms, the more stress we put on our body and various health issues start to arise.

Remember, life is a work in progress, we don’t have to change over night or run away to that cave. 

We can make small continuos tweaks ever moving our life into more alignment with what makes us feel good.

I was first exposed to Ayurveda 10 years ago when I started working at an Ayurvedic Clinic and Spa and I’ve been tweaking and implementing these ideas since.

In the past few years I’ve really put my heart into my dedication to yoga, being healthy (mind body and soul) and finding out what it really means to thrive. I’ve found that I’ve made leaps and bounds with a sense of exploration, humour and community support in making these changes. And truly, it has changed my life.

Because I want others to feel that support and thrive from the benefits of simple daily practices I’ll be writing throughout this month about the daily rhythms.

I’m also offering a free workshop this Saturday called “Nature’s Rhythms Revealed.” It will be at Qi Yoga in Freshwater from 2-3. I’m really looking forward to exploring this with a community of like minded people, and sharing the love! 

Pay Attention. Be Astonished.

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“Pay attention. Be astonished. Share your astonishment.”~ Mary Oliver

No one could have epitomised this quote better than the 74 year old man reading it with passion from the podium of the crowded hall. These three are the most important things in life, he told us.

We were showered with other such inspiring quotes by poets and scientists, rappers and rabbis, warriors, priests, prophets and philosophers all speaking about the same understanding, the same message — that the divine exists within everything, and the path out of suffering is simply through paying attention and acknowledge it.

This shower of wisdom and quotes came pouring out of the most animated, enthusiastic, scholarly and radically non-traditional 74 year old I’ve ever met. Mathew Fox, a theologian and ex-priest (kicked out of the church for his compassionate, inclusive and liberal teachings) eloquently wove together the true meaning of spirituality, ritual and mysticism — beyond dogma, religion, cryptic languages or dower practices.

And that meaning, he told us, has everything to do with our fate as individuals, as a species and as a planet.

I often feel uncomfortable using the word God. In fact, I mostly avoid the word spiritual.

They bring to mind either oppressive, confining religious systems that seem to have no spirit, or over the top, airy-fairy, ungrounded practices that seem rooted in denial or separatism.

Ironically, I’ve also chosen a life and career dedicated to deepening relationship to spirit — my own, that of others, the planet and the whole universe. Part of that dedication however is about demystifying spirituality and our understanding of subtle energy. Rather than putting it in the sky or cave or far off ashram where it may feel inaccessible to the majority of people, I like to frame and find spirit within our everyday life.

I like to replaced the word “God” with “Universal Energy,” but I know that it all means the same thing. And most importantly, I know that everyone, everything for that matter, has spirit within and for that simple reason is intrinsically spiritual.

This is why I’ve been so drawn to study and practice Yoga. It’s non-denominational (even though culturally influenced by Hinduism) teach us many practical ways to live in deeper connection to universal spirit.

Pay Attention. 

One of the most common phrases in the yoga world today is, “live in the present moment.” Though cliche, there’s a damn good reason it’s repeated over and over again.

If our consciousness does not reside in the present moment, we can’t paying attention to all of the wonder around and within us. When we’re lost in worry or regret, planning or reliving, we’re distracted from the awesomeness of life. These fluctuations of the mind, the Yoga Sutras says, lead to suffering.

Hatha yoga teaches us how to pay attention. We begin simply by observing our breath and sensations to climb out of the racing thoughts and bring our awareness into the moment. It’s a simple method but highly effective.

The minute we start to pay attention we begin to see, feel and acknowledge spirit. And something magical happens — not just to a select blessed few, but to everyone.  Our nervous system calms, we feel more connected within ourselves as well as with others, and this simple paying attention changes how we interact with ourselves and the whole world.

Be Astonished. 

The more we pay attention, the more awe, wonder and amazement of the world within and around us arises. We become dazzled and amazed with our own existence, and this naturally leads to gratitude.

Fox said at one point, “Humanity will not be saved by more information, but by more appreciation.”

He explained that this “radical amazement” not only leads to joy but also to courage, because all beauty contains terror. He spoke about how wonder is an act in which the mind confronts the universe, and this can be equally awesome as terrifying.

But, it is this confrontation with the universe that we need to heal ourselves and our plant. In Fox’s workshop he spoke about how disconnect the modern world is from the cosmos and the universe. This is not some far out notion, the universe and cosmos are simple the stuff we’re made of.

Another of my favourite moments was just before he dismissed us for lunch Fox threw up his hands and said, “The cosmos are not an abstraction, they are the tomato in your hand!”

All food, all life for that matter, is nourished by the sun, the cosmos. With each bite we are taking in the magnificent, complex interconnectedness of the universe. How often are we taught to remember that?

Fox asserts that it’s this lack of realising how much we are part of the bigger whole, the entire universe, that leads to our lack of self care, environmental degradation, war making and psychosis.

Spirituality is about finding that connection and having the courage to confront a universe that’s full of uncertainty and terrifying beauty. This courage is all about opening and strengthening the heart. “Courage” after all comes from the Latin word for heart, which also implies inner strength.

Share Your Astonishment. 

Fox spoke about the four paths of spirituality we all walk down. The first, the path of positivity, joy, astonishment and the second, the path of negativity, facing the terror and finding courage, leads to the third. The path of creativity.

Sharing our astonishment, in what ever way, is an act of creativity that comes from the heart and requires courage.

Sharing our astonishment is what we’re here to do. In yogic terms they call it “dharma” and is a word with many meanings that very much echo Fox’s message. Dharma on the one hand refers to the cosmic order of the universe. It is also spoken about in terms of individual dharma.

I like the way Deepak Chopra phrases it, “Following our dharma in the deepest sense means that we’re not really obeying the laws or regulations set down by society. Dharma isn’t about the external world but about aligning with the pure spiritual force within. When our intentions, thoughts, words, and actions support our life’s purpose, we are in dharma. And then we bring fulfilment to ourselves and everyone else affected by our actions.”

When we feel ourselves guided by creativity, not just in the sense of fine art but creativity in all aspects of life, we know we’re connected to spirit. This creativity from spirit leads to the fourth path of spiritually, the path of transformation. Just as Chopra said, when we are in our dharma we are fulfilled and everyone else is affected by our actions.

At the end of his lecturing Fox exclaimed, “Our activists need to get more spiritual and our spiritual people need to get more active. We are the first species on the planet who can choose whether or not we go extinct.”

So, call up that courageous heart and share with us your astonishment! You may well be astonished with out it transforms the world around you.

5 Ways to Get Closer to Yourself

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by Morgan Webert

When I look back at the nearly 15 years of yoga practice I’ve done and think about how and why it’s impacted my life, I see that behind every positive change and transformation has been the process of getting to know myself better.

I had a friend this week mention she’d love to see what she would have turned out like without following a yoga path, and how different she might be. We speculated on how much of our growth came from our yoga practice and how much was just a natural result of maturity.

We don’t have a special time machine to find out, but when I look at my life and my peers or friends I went to school with I see some clear themes. Some people seem comfortable with who and how they express themselves in the world, be it as a lawyer, IT expert, chef, artist, surfer bum, mom etc, and others who seem “trapped” or “stuck” in their lives.

To no surprise there’s a health correlation; people comfortable in their expression of life often are healthier than those who seem trapped. And, whether they’ve stepped foot on a yoga mat before or not, the people who are comfortable with how they express themselves in life also share in common a strong sense of self.

I personally have been stuck, lost, insecure and unhealthy in my life so many times it’s not even funny (just ask my mother). And, aside from having an amazing mother to talk to, my yoga practice continually gave me a format to look at myself and my situation from a bigger perspective, and from that perspective find my path out of confusion and into clarity.

The truth is, it still does. Confusion, or avidya as it’s called in Sanskrit, is just part of the human condition, and yoga is a practice because we face the same issues again and again. Svadhyaya, self study, is one of the principle yogic practices that guide us out of confusion.

“Sva means ‘self’ or ‘belonging to me.’ Adhyaya means ‘inquiry’ or ‘examination’; literally, ‘to get closer to something.’ Svadhyaya therefor means to get closer to yourself, that is, to study yourself. All learning, all reflection, all contact that helps you to learn more about yourself is Svadhyay.” T.K.V. Desikachar said that.

The stronger I get in my practice the less stressed I feel by this confusion because I’ve learned (and am still learning) to trust in the process of self reflection guiding me to a place of balance and harmony.

Desikachar goes on to say, “Svadhyaya is the process of gradually finding out where we are, who we are, what we are and so forth. Our asana (yoga posture) practice begins with precisely these questions. We take the first step by observing the breath and body. We do this over and over again, hoping that we will with time develop a deeper understanding of ourselves and our current state. In this way we also learn to recognize what our next steps will be.”

Below are five simple ways to practice Svadhyaya, get closer to yourself, and tune into what your next step toward happiness and harmony will be.

1. Get into your body and out of your brain.

The “self” is so much more than the gray matter between your ears. Moving the body taps us into the information of our whole being and can get us out of a mental rut that’s getting us nowhere. Yoga classes, running, sports, dance or anything movement gets us feeling our body is a practice of self study.

2. Ask yourself, “What have I learned today and how can I use that wisdom tomorrow.”

This is a practice my Ayurvedic teach Cate Stillman taught me. I now have this question tacked to my wall next to my bed. Simply reflecting at the end of the day keeps us connected to our wisdom and intuition, and is a simple way to observe our actions and their implications.

3. Close your eyes and meditate.

There’s no better way to see ourselves than simply stopping and watching. Essentially, that’s what meditation is. While the focus can be directed at any number of things depending on the style of meditation, ultimately the practice is self reflection. We’re likely to see all of our neurosis and shadows but if we watch long enough we see our connection to purity, peace and source energy below all that. Seeing this connection is what keeps people sitting on their cushions day after day, even when they know the demons may pop up in the process.

4. Eat a meal alone, in silence, without any devices or distractions.

I eat alone a lot, but not really. I’ll check my phone, open my computer, grab a magazine or write down things I need to do while I eat. Meanwhile I’m shoveling in food without tasting it, not chewing enough and totally disconnecting with how I’m creating this form I live in. To get to know our health issues better we have to start with how we eat. According to Ayurveda all disease starts with poor digestion, and such an important part of digestion is the mindset we have while consuming. I’ve had huge insights into my health problems from slowing down and paying attention to my eating, and I’ve also had great insightful moments during these slow meals.

5. Take a long walk by yourself (without your phone!).

Remember, the world is a mirror. Walking through it and paying attention to all the details can be like walking through one of those multi-mirrored fun houses. Sometimes the reflection is distorted and not so pretty, other times you can see infinity. Either way, it’s all you.

What are your favorites ways to self reflect?