Listen. Friends having a conversation.

Listen

On its surface, listening is not that hard. Someone is speaking, we hear and comprehend the words, and we gain an understanding of what he or she is conveying.

It’s that third bit where people often falter.

To really understand what a person is saying, we need to consider the context, the person’s background or history, and any emotional subtext. Also, we have to observe. Is the person’s speech rushed? Are they animated? Are they louder or higher-pitched that usual? For some, all of these things come naturally, but others barely hear the words, never mind consider the subtleties.

In interacting with other people, it can often be difficult to ascertain their points of view, their motives, or their agenda (if they have one). However, with an awareness of certain aspects of that person’s physical and emotional responses, it is much easier to know where they’re coming from. When speaking with someone, it can be revealing to pay close attention to what they’re doing with their arms or hands, the way they’re breathing, and any changes in the color of their face or the intensity of their eyes. It is often the case that these attributes can communicate more than words.

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Exist. Enjoying beauty in nature

Exist

You exist, every second of every day.

What does that mean to you?

What is the nature of your existence? What is the impact of your presence in the world?

We are an inherent part of whatever situation we find ourselves in and are responsible for how interesting (or uninteresting) it is. We can make life exciting, inspiring, and fun—we just have to remember to exist, in a meaningful way, wherever we are.

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Reflect. Person watching a sunset.

Reflect

It is important to make some time for reflection in our lives.

If we can make the time to think deeply about what we do, how we interact with others, and what direction our lives are heading, we can make each of these aspects of our lives more meaningful and give ourselves the peace of mind that comes from living intentionally.

It is important to understand not just what is happening in our lives but why it is happening and what the consequences will be. Sometimes it may feel like we’re going through life like a pinball—being bounced around with little control over our direction. Why does it feel this way? Are we not taking charge of our direction? Are we trying to take charge but can’t for some reason? Are our lives really out of control, or does it just seem that way? If we reflect on our direction in life and gain a better understanding of the forces that influence that direction, we will be much more likely to move in the direction that we want and will feel more confident in our path.

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Animal. Human as an animal.

Animal

“You’re an animal!!”

Being called an animal is often meant as an insult—a suggestion that we’re not “civilized,” that we don’t have control over our impulses. But there are other ways we can interpret our animal nature. We can take it to mean that we’re in tune with the world around us, that we pay attention to our senses and what they’re telling us, that we’re aware of and comfortable with nature.

Of course, the thing that sets us apart from “other animals” is our brain, which gives us the ability to reason and our sense of self. While it does set us apart, it doesn’t have to draw a hard line between us and other animals. We have lived for so long without the need to pay attention to the world around us that many of us have lost the inclination. We only see the natural elements of our world when we make a concerted effort or in extreme circumstances.

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Grace. Running Cheetahs.

Grace

When you think about the word “graceful,” what comes to mind? Maybe a dancer like Fred Astaire, or an athlete like Joe DiMaggio. DiMaggio’s playing was described as “elegant,” and it was said he “glided” around the outfield with the “grace” of a cat. These are not words that you often find in the sports page, but when people saw DiMaggio play, those were the words that fit.

Where does grace come from? Are people born with it? When you see someone who is clumsy or awkward, do you think they are just like that, or they just aren’t paying attention? For the body, there is two-way communication. Listen to your body and compel your body to listen to you. This comes down to awareness. A simple idea, but one on which few really act.

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