Take a deep breath.

In through your nose and hug your shoulders up to your ears as you exhale, then relax them back down.

Unclench your jaw by separating your teeth.

Unstick your tongue from the roof of your mouth.

Find a little softness in the space between your eyebrows.

That’s better.

Don’t Bite the Hook

I recently discovered American monk and meditation teacher Pema Chödrön and her teachings on Audible. I was drawn to her simple and witty approach to managing fear and anxiety, building self-confidence and self-awareness, and being your most authentic self in all areas of life.

If these topics interest you, I recommend starting with her book Don’t Bite the Hook, Finding Freedom from Anger, Resentment and Other Destructive Emotions.

image of book don't bite the hook by pema chodron

In Don’t Bite the Hook, Pema offers best practices on how to train your mind to work through the “little things” and get better at navigating bigger challenges. The little things are what she calls bougie suffering, like when your favorite restaurant doesn’t have any available reservations for the next month or when that new TV you wanted is out of stock.

She describes how discomfort in our minds often starts as a tiny ember that we fan with our thoughts – was it a bad day or a bad 10 minutes that we milked all day? And she encourages us to stop and ask ourselves, “Is this feeling comfortable?” the next time we get upset or irritated.

If the answer is no, she recommends having a process in place so that we don’t fall back into the habit of fanning those tiny embers with our irritation and negative attitude. Pema teaches that everything is a practice, and you can either get really good at “biting the hook” or you can get good at recognizing when you’re about to get hooked and choose something different.

Consciousness Raising

Another big takeaway was the practice of Consciousness Raising. Here’s how it works:

Start noticing things that please you in your daily life and state them out loud. For example, this coffee tastes really good, the sky is so pretty, this shirt is really soft, etc. This is a good way to start imprinting a practice of gratitude and being in the present moment, into your subconscious.

When we are easily touched by seemingly small things and appreciative of simple pleasures, we get better at stopping to smell the roses. The best part of this practice is that it starts to spill over in your personal relationships. You’ll find yourself starting to say things like this hairstyle looks great on you, I like how you’re thinking, I appreciate you offering a different perspective, I’m enjoying your company.

I often find myself musing over simple pleasures in my head, but rarely speak them out loud. My inner monologue is geared toward gratitude, but saying the words never occurred to me until Pema described it as a key step in raising my level of consciousness.

I’ve been doing this practice and noticing how it’s affecting the people around me, too. It’s true that misery loves company. If you grumble about something, whoever is close to you is likely to cosign.

The opposite could be true as well. Just the other day, my partner took a sip of the coffee I made, looked up and said “This coffee is so good!”. He then went back to checking his emails like it was nothing. I think this practice is rubbing off!

Start today by stating out loud the next three things that bring you joy. Comment below to share your experience with this practice.