Levels of Awareness – Finding the brilliance of fall, and in ourselves.

As the rain begins and the seasons change, it is the ideal time to create space within ourselves and form a relationship with our awareness.  Listening to the pitter-patter of rain, the singing of birds, and the crackle of fall leaves under our feet allows us to truly be present in the moment. What a gift all this could be—the end of summer’s breeze on our skin and the prickle of winter’s chill. How peaceful it can feel when we ground ourselves in mother earth and really allow ourselves to soak up what nature has to offer.  This, our most basic level of awareness, can give us a space to breath and move when we’re feeling stuck.  

What if we delve a little deeper?

Try shifting your awareness to yourself. First, notice your breath, then maybe your heartbeat.  How does your body feel in the moment?  Do you have an itch that needs to be scratched?  Is there a pain, throbbing, or other sensation that you are aware of?  All of this listening to our body is information.  It’s our nervous system at work, and most of the time we are too busy to really take a moment and listen.  Instead, we work at a more superficial level where we mistake our judgments about others as truth. We may even tell ourselves that we know what others are feeling and thinking.  This assists us in creating a story that satisfies our thoughts and feelings, when in fact we can never be sure how someone else is feeling.  This seems even clearer when we consider that we rarely know how we’re truly feeling.

If we use this awareness and notice when we are making assumptions about others, we can then try to shift our viewpoint to curiosity, which can change our story and soften any judgements we may have.  Curiosity allows us to shift our story, which allows us a different perspective of a situation. What if we could then move to a different level of awareness and acknowledge how we react to situations, including the impact of stress.  Do we have a knee jerk reaction? Do we speak before we think? Do we jump to conclusions?

And, if we go deeper, perhaps we can ask ourselves what made us react the way we did?  Was it a past stress, a current issue, or something else? Then, if we reach even more deeply, we can ask ourselves about the emotion surrounding our action, reaction, or inaction, and where it is located in our body.

As I mentioned in my previous post The Stories We Live: Why We Feel What We Feel   we often have a limited vocabulary to express the complex emotions we feel, and this leaves us missing something in this process.  Finding the word or phrase that just feels right can take time, but once you unearth it, our story becomes more tangible. Locating where this feeling lives in your body becomes clearer as well.

The idea that our feelings can be felt or stored within the body may sound foreign to some of us, but given the opportunity and the assistance to help explore this aspect of ourselves, the outcome can be profound.   An example of recognizing where our feelings reside in our body could be to imagine the nervousness you felt on that first date—the butterflies in your belly, or that first kiss and the tingling in your head.  Think of that moment of fear and exhilaration you felt on your first rollercoaster ride when you thought your chest might burst. If we pay close attention and heighten our internal awareness, the information that can come forth is amazing, sometimes life changing, and always worthwhile in our personal growth.

As fall struts forward in all of its golden glory, take a moment to listen to the rain, the crackling of those falling leaves, and feel the cool breeze—then take a moment to turn inwards and see what you hear.


A Green Private Practice: A Chance to Make A Difference

While building my practice I considered how I could lessen my carbon footprint and be more environmentally conscious.  I am proud to say I have been able to take the following steps in hopes of running a Greener Private Practice.

  1. My office is located in the Coulter Berry Building in Fort Langley, B.C.  The building is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Accredited. 
  2. I have been running almost completely paperless since the beginning.  I use Jane App in my practice for all client files. This software allows me to keep all of my files secure on a server located in BC and most importantly I can be paper free.  My advertising is done online with the exception of business cards. There is even a whiteboard that can be used in session to avoid the use of paper.
  3. My office windows allow for an abundance of natural light so we are rarely turning any lights on.
  4. Most importantly to me, my office is in a location that allows me to utilize other forms of transportation other than my car on most days.


The smell of freshly brewed coffee and sizzling bacon waft through your open window and instantly you’re transported back to the Sunday mornings of your childhood. Warmth envelopes you. You feel calm, happy, content — and hungry!

You hear a cup crash to the floor, and your entire body automatically tightens.  It’s brief, but you notice it, and your mood changes ever so slightly.

Your boss asks to see you in their office, and all of a sudden you feel like a child about to be reprimanded; yet, there is no reason to believe that they are displeased with you.

That song begins to play on the radio, and you can’t help but start moving to the music. Memories come back to you in tiny pictures, but mostly you notice the overwhelming emotions and sensations washing over you.  

What do all of these scenarios have in common?  We have attached a story to them. We’ve created a meaning for ourselves, and our feelings follow. Driven by these narratives, we react to the people and world around us. Some of these stories we are aware of, and others may surprise us with their existence and significance.  These narratives create filters that we use daily in our communication and in our interaction with others and ourselves.  Many are helpful and contribute to our success, but some may be outdated and create challenges:

“I can’t do this!” 

“I’m not smart enough.” 

“How could they love me?” 

“Of course I’m wrong.”

“What’s wrong with me?”

Do any of these sound familiar?  Filters, stories, beliefs… Call them what you will, but they reside in all of us.  It’s part of the human experience, and yet they can be very limiting, affecting our relationships and how we relate to others in our day-to-day lives.

What if you could rewrite the stories that aren’t serving you well?  Where, how, and why were these filters formed?  How do these filters affect your internal dialogue?  What sort of beliefs have you formed based on this dialogue?  And most importantly, what do you feel during these moments? 

The answers to these questions can help us understand, process, and change our story.  Sometimes, it’s a matter of changing one word within our story, and the entire meaning and feeling associated with that narrative can shift.

I want you to take a moment and think about the words you would use to describe how you feel when you are feeling happy.  How many words can you come up with? Did any of these make your list — alive, awed, energetic, excited, grateful, invigorated, joyful, thrilled, optimistic, or wonder-filled?

Review the list again.  Are there any words that stand out to you?  Do you notice a different feeling when you read a specific word? If you were to say you felt thrilled or joyful instead of happy, does that change the feeling for you?

When we think of different words, like events, they can trigger very specific reactions within us.  If the words above didn’t create distinct emotions for you, try thinking about the language you use when you’re unhappy. Did any of these make your list — appalled, ashamed, hurt, depleted, withdrawn, vulnerable, insecure, nervous, anxious, or uncomfortable? Do any of them incite a distinct reaction from you? Or, were there any words in particular that fascinated you? 

The English language is loaded with words to describe how we feel, and often we only use a small percentage of these.  By becoming more familiar with these words, and how we react to them, we can become clearer about how they affect our stories. They can also provide a greater understanding of how we interact with them.

Have you ever said: “I’m so Angry!”?  Was there more to that statement than you could express at the time?  Can you think of another word to describe how you felt in that moment?  Were you hurt?  Did someone catch you off-guard?  Did someone make you uncomfortable?  If you were to change the word “angry” to another word, what would that be?  Does this change how you feel about the situation?  Sometimes, clarifying our feelings can change our internal narrative, which can then lead to more kindness towards ourselves.

The scenarios described above offers a brief insight into how I work with my clients in our counselling sessions. As we become aware of our inner dialogue and the language we use, we can utilize these skills to create change within ourselves. 


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