Sometimes life gets so hectic, and then our minds get so hectic, that it's hard to slow down and smell the coffee or the roses or whatever it is we want to smell.
This simple practice can help with that. I call it Seven Questions, and you only need about five minutes to do it. In fact, it takse longer to read this explanation than it takes to do the exercise itself. However, the Seven Questions exercise can refresh you and re-ground you in your own skin.
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Take a slow, deep breath or two.
- Ask yourself, "What do I see?" Then just name (silently or out loud) a few things your eyes fall upon -- the wall, a window, a lamp, the ceiling, curtains, a picture, whatever. Don't evaluate or judge what you see. Don't move your head around a lot to see more. Just relax and notice a few things.
- Then ask, "What do I hear?" Again, in a calm way, just notice and name what you hear. There may be a lot or a little. Don't strain. Just relax and notice.
- Continue in the same way with, "What do I smell?" This question has the added benefit of encouraging you to breathe in more fully, which is good for smelling and for calming you with fresh oxygen.
- Ask, "What do I taste?" There might not be much here, but notice what you can. Maybe it will be the coffee you just finished drinking or your unbrushed teeth if it's first thing in the morning. Whatever it is, remember not to interpret or assess; just notice.
- Ask yourself about the fifth sense, "What do I feel in my body?" Pay quiet, calm attention to the way your pants feel on your thighs, your chilly bare feet, the tension in your jaw or shoulders, how your glasses feel on your nose, etc. Don't worry about adjusting things or thinking you have to fix any of it right now; just calmly observe.
- Now that you've observed through your five senses, ask yourself two more questions. "What am I feeling emotionally?" and "What am I thinking?" As with the senses questions, ask each one separately and answer them gently and in a light, sort of detached manner. You might feel happy or sad, angry or expectant. You might be thinking you have to call your friend or that this is a boring activity or that you wish you'd been nicer to your spouse this morning. Again, don't judge your feelings and thoughts or try to change them; just notice and accept them as they are.
- Finish by taking another deep breath or two. Then express gratitude for this chance to slow down and be aware of yourself. Express your gratitude to your spiritual source or to the universe or yourself; the main thing is to appreciate these moments and whatever they have brought you.
A few comments about this grounding practice:
- Ask the five senses questions in any order; that doesn't matter. You might want to change the order once in a while, so you don't get in a rut.
- You can write in your journal after you're done. Comment on what you noticed or how you felt during and after asking the questions.
- It's useful to do the Seven Questions exercise just once a day at first, for a week or two, to get the feel for it and see what you think. If you do it too often at first, you might burn out on it and decide it's boring after the "honeymoon" wears off.
- Once you're familiar with this practice and you find it to be helpful, you can also use a shorter version throughout your day. Ask yourself a question or two during your morning break, when you go to the bathroom, standing in line at the store -- any time you have a moment and want to slow your racing mind.