11/07/2013 04:01 pm ET

Tune In to Tune Up: A Mindful Approach to Clearing Stress

"Move closer, lean in, get curious; even for a moment,
experience the feelings without labels, beyond being good or bad.
Welcome them. Invite them. Do anything that helps melt the resistance." -- Pema Chödrön

How's it going?

When people ask me this question in passing, my first impulse is to tell them my whole story, even though I know they're just being polite and friendly. They don't really want to know:

  • I couldn't sleep last night.
  • My coffee tasted old this morning -- and p.s., where is the nearest Starbucks?
  • I'm sick of always having to clean up after everyone.
  • I haven't worked out in days and I feel like a whale.
  • I'm famished and cranky.
  • What was I thinking to wear these shoes... my feet are killing me.
  • Darn, I wished that I had bought that jacket I saw on sale yesterday. I can't believe I let that one go.
  • Will this pain that I feel in my knees ever stop?
  • I can't deal with everyone's whining.

I'll usually retort with my own equally non-present, fake-happy Good! (with the little lilt on the top of it), just to move things along.

That's me living on auto-pilot.

So how do you respond in a way that feels more authentic, especially when you're in a hurry and you have a million things swirling around in your head?

What if the next time someone asked you how you were "doing," you could move past the stories (that no one really asked to hear anyway), and go directly to tuning in to the feeling beneath the story? To use the connection with the person as an opportunity to quietly check in with yourself and allow whatever it is you're feeling to arise -- without (and this is key) judging it or doing anything to fix it?

What makes this exercise one of the most basic and powerful in my world of clearing is this:

  • It takes only seconds of your time.
  • You become more present with yourself.
  • You become more available to the person you're talking to.
  • You become more present with your surroundings.
  • You can clear tension by simply observing and feeling it.
  • You become more discerning about how and where you spend your time in general.
  • You become more discerning about whom you choose to hang out with (e.g., someone who makes you feel good).

You can try it right now... Close your eyes. Take a nice, easy breath in, then a slow, emptying breath out. Take a few moments to breathe out all thought and tension and breathe in pure awareness and possibility...

When you feel centered, notice and allow how you are feeling at this moment. Using any of the prompts below, do a full-body scan from the top of your head to the tips of your toes.

Notice and allow all sensation, thoughts, emotions without doing anything to fix or manage them. If you feel like you cannot shake off an annoyance, a grudge, or a burden, just notice that. All sensations are simply signs of moving stuck energy. They have a way of shifting and smoothing out to the degree that you give them space.

  • Is it tight and contracted? If so, where exactly?
  • How's your breathing? Is it shallow? Is it full and relaxed?
  • Is your mouth dry? Are you thirsty?
  • Do you notice other sensations: heart rate change, a knot in your stomach, sweaty palms, joint pain, fatigue, anything else?
  • Are you tired, yawning, zoning out, bored? Or are you feeling attentive, energized, excited?
  • Do you feel foggy-headed or clearheaded?
  • Are you analyzing, criticizing, curious, skeptical, in task mode?
  • Are you chewing on a thought or worry about something or someone?
  • Are you spinning another round of woulda-coulda-shouldas?
  • Do you feel a pang of something -- of sadness, grief or fear?
  • Are you holding a grudge?
  • Did someone press your button? If so, where in your body do you feel it?
  • Do you feel grumpy or annoyed? If so, what does grumpiness or annoyance feel like? Is it heavy, tight, contracting, achy, congesting?
  • Do you feel stressed, overwhelmed, fried?
  • Are you feeling reactive, rattled, jangled, off-balance, nauseous, ill?

When you feel complete, open your eyes and notice how you're feeling now. Notice if you feel the same or different from how you did when you started the exercise.

Awareness. It changes everything. Responding from a place from awareness changes everything.

Stephanie Bennett Vogt is a leading space clearing expert, international speaker and teacher with over 35 years of experience. This post is an excerpt from her book Your Spacious Self: Clear the Clutter and Discover Who You Are; reprinted with permission of the publisher. To learn more about Stephanie's popular clearing programs designed to cultivate a clear home and spacious life, including her bestselling course on DailyOM, please visit

For more by Stephanie Bennett Vogt, click here.