Food. Man having snack and drinking beer late night in front of the refrigerator.

Food

Man, I am starving!

You hear people with relatively affluent suburban lives saying this. Although it might mean that the person is actually hungry, it’s more likely that they just want some food, either because they’re looking forward to a meal, they’re thinking about a certain food, or they’re just bored.

Unfortunately, there are lots of people who are actually starving in the world.

Whenever my son says this, or something like this, I remind him that he’s not actually starving and ask him if he actually feels hungry. I ask him to pay attention to the signals his mind and body are sending him and to identify them intentionally. I also tell him that it’s OK to periodically be hungry. Maintaining a hungry feeling can be healthy—it can train us to not immediately start wolfing down food when we have that feeling. We’re not meant to be full all the time.

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Creed. A focus on what's important.

Creed

Do you have a creed? Is there a set of statements that sum up your values and how you live your life?

I’ve always been a little wary of creeds. The idea of someone telling me what I should think or believe has always rubbed me the wrong way. But that’s only if someone else wrote it. On the other hand, a personal creed can help clarify our thoughts and guide our actions.

Why develop a creed?

A personal creed can help us think through our values in a comprehensive way. It can help us figure out what is important to us, what we really believe, and how we act based on those beliefs. A creed can help us be the people we aspire to be. It is easy to fall into a pattern of reacting instead of acting, doing things out of convenience rather than purpose.

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Aware. Woman noticing nature.

Aware

When I get home from a social gathering, I am often asked a series of very specific questions. What decorations did they have? What was Tina wearing? What kind of cake did they have? My answer is usually, “I dunno…”.

It’s not that I don’t notice things; I just notice different things.

When you leave a place, how much do you remember about it? If someone asked you the color of the wall in your friend’s living room, would you know? Do you notice what people are wearing?

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Weather

When people talk about the weather, it’s often considered small talk. Something to talk about when you can’t think of anything else. When I talk about the weather, it’s because I’m excited about it. I enjoy talking about it. For many of us, weather is a significant part of our lives and our emotions.

People have different relationships to the weather. For some, the weather is directly related to their livelihoods; they pay attention to it religiously, but for purely practical reasons. They need rain for their crops to grow. They need calm weather to fish. For others, certain weather conditions are necessary for something they’re passionate about, and when they get those conditions, they love that weather because it gives them the opportunity to do what they love. Weather can bring back memories—memories of relationships, memories of experiences. For some, their relationship to the weather is purely emotional. Certain weather conditions create a direct emotional response.

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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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