04/23/2013 08:04 am ET Updated Jun 22, 2013

Accessing Your Internal GPS Through Meditation

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Feeling a bit off course? Getting nowhere fast? Congratulations! You have enough self-awareness to notice when you're out of balance. The good news is that it's possible to make simple adjustments to regain balance -- much like placing a small napkin underneath the leg of a table that's leaning slightly in one direction.

How do we locate the part of life that requires adjustment? How do we perceive the signals of imbalance? Start by cultivating the same quality that allowed you to see the imbalance in the first place: awareness. This mental quality is enhanced with practice, much like the body's strength and function is improved with physical exercise.

The mental activity that most effectively expands and deepens awareness is some form of meditation. The word "meditation" suggests many things to many people and can even create a barrier for some, much like the catchy phrase "8-minute abs" when it comes to physical core strengthening. It helps to think of it this way: simply finding your way back to center.

In the process of centering, it's possible to distance ourselves from the habits of rumination and mental time travel, to move away from reliving the past and anticipating the future, and to rediscover the present. We come back to earth through the physical sensations of the body breathing, which can only exist right here and right now. This individual experience can help us navigate the bridge between an external state of imbalance to an internal state of centered stillness. It realigns us with who we really are.

Try the following meditation exercise:

Gently close your eyes and place your hands on your belly. Feel your hands rise with the in breath and fall with the out breath. Maintain your focus on the movement of the breath. As you do this, notice when your mind wanders to something else. When this happens, gently and firmly bring your attention back to the movement of breath in your body. Feel the breath. Enjoy the rhythm of your breath. When your mind wanders, once again, bring it back to your hand riding the waves of breath. After a minute or two, as you feel ready, smile and slowly open your eyes.

Much like a GPS can position us in directions relative to the surface of the earth, a simple breath-focused meditation can help orient our position on life's journey.

Deepening our awareness takes commitment and practice. The physical body becomes weaker and less able to perform without regular activity. Likewise, our mental strength is weakened by the stress of multi-tasking and bypassed by the power of our engrained pattern and habit. With regular practice, a simple centering exercise can move us from a whirling maelstrom of thoughts and emotions, and lead us safely back to earth. When we're connected to the center once again, grounded in a state of stillness and calm, we're better able to map our position and to take a fresh look at what life presents us. Embrace a simple meditation practice -- like an internal GPS accessible any time, under any condition. Find your way back. Find your way home.

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