02/13/2014 09:34 pm ET Updated Apr 15, 2014

Are You Aware? Or Just Simply There?

Rj and I were in our usual spots at the bikram yoga studio with ten minutes before class was to start. We were engaged in our usual pre-class routine: laying flat on our backs trying desperately to acclimate to the heat and wondering why in the world we liked this yoga so much! All of a sudden, I heard Rj sputter, cough, and then laugh. It wasn't a fun loving jovial laugh. It was a laugh I've heard before when something happened that he just couldn't fathom. You know, one of those "You have GOT to be kidding me" laughs. I looked over to see what had happened.

As it turns out, the last lady to enter the room stopped next to Rj, looked down, said hello, and then let her mat unroll in a fairly ungraceful fashion. Similar to an out of control window blind, she started the unrolling process high above her head, and then let her yoga mat find the floor quickly, loudly and rather dramatically. Unfortunately, it wasn't the floor her mat encountered. It was Rj's head.

Oblivious to where her mat had landed, she proceeded to walk across the room to the spot she planned to practice. Yoga mat in tow behind her, she dragged it over Rj's head to its final resting spot -- directly in front of me.


Take a moment right now to become more aware of yourself. Are you sitting up straight? Are you tired? Did your lunch agree with you? Did you eat lunch? Are you stressed? Are you relaxed? Are you happy about how you look today? Are you happy about how you performed today? Pick your head up, focus your eyes straight forward, and stop for a moment to become aware of where your mind and body are and how they feel.

I am asking you to be aware not as a responsibility, but as an inquiry. The woman in our yoga class had the responsibility to be more aware of her surroundings, but what I'm asking you to do is slightly different. I'd like you to be truly present, open and curious about you. Good or bad. Happy or sad. It doesn't matter -- what matters is that you know whether you are good or bad, or whether you are happy or sad.

I talk a lot about how to eat healthier, but one of the most important components of healthier eating is being aware of what you are putting into your body. Deep breathing exercises for stress reduction or sleep enhancement start with being aware of your breath. Living your everyday life requires some level of awareness of what you really want to be, do, have, feel or create.

Anything worth doing is worth doing right. As such, awareness needs proper time and space for full impact. It may take seconds to flip your awareness switch or sometimes it's minutes before your mind focuses on the present. As with exercising your physical body, the more you exercise the awareness muscle, the stronger it becomes, and the quicker your switch can flip.

So, now that I have you in an inquisitive state of awareness, I'd like you to consider being more aware in the following scenarios:

• Eating your meals -- what are you eating? How does it taste? How does it make you feel? Have you eaten too much? Have you not eaten enough? Your body will tell you if you take a moment to listen.
• Walking in the fresh air -- how does the world look? How does the air smell? How does your heart feel when it's getting some physical activity? What color are the trees? Our natural world around us is an amazing stress relieving playground -- take a moment to understand why.
• Interacting with your kids - what are they interested in? How is school going? What makes their eyes light up? Work can wait, but your kids won't stop growing up. Make sure you engage in the moments you are given.
• Interacting with your partner -- do you remember what drew you to love him/her? How was their day at work? Could they use a hug? Hey! Today is Valentine's Day -- what are you doing to celebrate? Even taking a few moments to hug your partner and tell him/her how much you love them will be celebration enough -- I promise.
• Talking to a client -- what do they really need to solve their problem? Are you listening to what they are saying? You can't have the right answer if you don't know what the real question was.

Mindfulness. Emotional Intelligence. Knowledge. Observation. Seek to Understand Before Being Understood (Covey's 5th Habit of Highly Effective People). Slow down. Pick your head up. Look around you. Participate. Enjoy.

It all starts with a few minutes of awareness.