03/05/2013 10:39 am ET Updated May 05, 2013

Falling Awake to Your Life

Do you ever agree to do things only because you are assuming that they will never happen?
These promises can vary in severity from agreeing to raise your nephews if anything happens to your sister and brother-in-law, to telling your friend that you will drive her to the airport at 4:30 a.m. if she can't find a ride, to saying you will stay on the PTA board one more year if a replacement for you isn't found. Pre-nuptial agreements also come to mind.

I have two close friends who keep saying to me, "You can move in with us if you need a place to stay!" And guess what? I am moving in with them in two weeks. Poor them.

And in a similar but inverse line of reasoning, do you ever refuse to do something just because someone wants you to do it so badly that you can't?

If you have ever tried to force a dog to stop barking or make a toddler eat peas when they do not want to, you know what I am describing. It is just human nature that if someone pushes us too hard, we refuse, just on principle.

The quadriceps muscle is like this, too. If you stretch it too far or too quickly, it will automatically contract, giving you less of the length you are trying to gain. It will say "Who do you think you are pushing around?" by tightening up. If you go in like gangsters, your muscles have a built-in protective reflex to stop you. And this prevents injury.

It is a mechanism that is built into our body, so it makes sense that this reflex is also present in our mind, in the way we live our life. Not only our brain but also our mind are such amazing tools that both the brain and the body often makes these types of decisions back behind the wizard's curtain, on an unconscious or subconscious level.

Mothers who want their kids to lose weight will often get less of what they want by pushing against. Many women are overweight because their moms and/or husbands fiercely want them to be thin. Staying fat is the mind's way of saying,"F#!@*! you. I will weigh what I want."
What to do? I am embarrassed to say it, because it is as simple as it is difficult to do.

When we can sit quietly and observe our thoughts (not changing them, just watching them) then we create a small space. It is the difference between obsessing and knowing that you are obsessing. If you are obsessing, then you are lost to it. But if you notice that you are obsessing then you now have a choice. You can continue to obsess or you can choose to stop. So this small space where we begin to notice what our thoughts are and where they are taking us gives us choices. When we can begin to choose different (or hopefully better) thoughts, then our better thoughts become our words and our words become our actions and our actions unfold into how we live our lives.

If we don't manage our thoughts, "Why did I say that?" becomes "Why did I do that?" which turns into "How did I get here?"

I don't know about you, but I prefer to have my life unfold in a way that is of my own choosing rather than the way I usually do, which is letting my thoughts drag me every which way, like a team of stampeding horses where the driver has lost hold of the reins.

Cultivating an honest relationship with yourself by watching your thoughts (otherwise known as meditation) becomes your wealth, something that will enrich your relationships and is something that can never be taken away from you, so that rather than looking back and saying, "Why did I say or do that?" you say to yourself, "I meant what I said," which becomes "I'm so glad I am here."

If you know me well or if only through my writings, you know that I speak of how exercise always makes everything better. As I get older, I understand this in a more specific way. For me, I don't so much love the actual exercise as much as I love how it makes me feel after I have done it. It clears my thinking pattern. It gets me out from under the thumb of my ever-criticizing mind. It makes me feel closer to my real self beneath and far beyond how I look in my workout gear.

So yes, a side benefit is that it can make you look thinner, live younger for longer as well as better, but the real payoff is how it helps you think better, and that will make you feel better -- and not just about your body, but about everything in your life.

Turns out that exercise is the warm-up for the more authentic work of meditation, which will help you get to know yourself better so that you can catch yourself if you misstep and eventually catch yourself before you misstep. So that you can fall awake to your life.

Not all things that you learn are taught to you by others. When you get straight with your own thinking, then your connections to others will flourish.

As I have struggled these past few years, both personally and financially, I become more and more convinced that the key indicator for wealth is not pounds on the scale, dollars in the bank, Lululemon workout wear, good grades or IQ. I think wealth is relationships, both with ourselves and with others.

Ask yourself these questions: How many people do I know, and how much ransom money could I get for each one? And in return, how much ransom money would they pay for me?

Every day is our bank account. Time is our currency. Our thoughts are our dollars. No one is rich, no one is poor. We've got 24 hours each.

At least that is what I think.

For more by Penny Love Hoff, click here.

For more on wisdom, click here.