Week 1 of Wonder: Searching For Awe

Welcome to Soul Studies -- prompts and questions to explore WONDER in your life, business and creativity.

This is your weekly reminder to carve out time for yourself, anchor yourself to your values and contemplate how you can allow the monthly theme to permeate throughout everything you do.

So… crack open that journal, and commit yourself to the prompts and exercises below! This is how you leverage your Color Your Soul subscription the most -- by absorbing these insights and then actually applying them in your life!


WEEK #1:

Searching For Awe

 

Grand, sublime reverence. (Okay, I can work with that.)

 

For me, I most easily access awe whenever I’m confronted with natural beauty. It may sound cliche, but there’s a reason they call them “The 7 WONDERS of the Natural World.”

Maybe it’s the stark contrast that nature provides with my culture-saturated city life, but when I stand at the foot of a mountain or I walk through a dense forest, it’s like the superficial candy coating surface of reality melts away and I’m reminded of the more satisfying, rich chocolatey core of life. It makes me feel bigger and truer and more connected to the web of living things.

The grand scale that nature often operates on is inspiring to me on the most visceral level.

Jason and I try to travel to places where we can experience the awe of nature at least a few times a year. (In fact, as I send this today, we’re on our way to Joshua Tree National Park to spend a week at a house in the desert for this very reason.)

But I recognize that not everyone has the means (or desire) to take a walkabout in the woods whenever they want to experience awe.

So the question I want you to ruminate on this week is:

Where and how can you access that feeling of awe in your life?

What moves you in a way that makes you feel bigger? What kind of experiences melt away the candy coating for YOU?

For many people I know it’s music. They feel so deeply moved by certain artists or albums, and it allows them to access this invisible connection to the bigger picture. (I once listened to this podcast episode featuring the band Cloud Cult, a band I had never heard of, and the music they played brought me to tears.) I think that is a kind of awe.

It could be art or it could be cinema. It could be something grand, like thousands of lanterns being released into the sky, or something minute, like grains of sand being used to tell a story of love and loss.

To get you thinking about this, write down three experiences that have conjured up that feeling of awe for you in the past:

1.

2.

3.

Now, write down one action you can take to seek out awe on an ongoing basis. (It could be to take one camping trip a year to sleep under the stars, or see a live dance performance, or visit an art installation in your town.)

Look to your answers above for clues about how you connect to this powerful feeling, and make it a priority to search for moments and experiences that facilitate it.


I believe that awe and wonder can contribute in so many positive ways to the vibrancy of our lives. I believe experiences that are inspiring, expanding and uplifting are typically experiences that lead us to a deeper understanding of our core selves and a widening perspective on the possibilities we see for our lives.

That’s it for this week! Look out for a new installment of Soul Studies next Sunday!

 
 

Week 4 of Gratitude: Making A Plan

Welcome to Soul Studies -- prompts and questions to explore GRATITUDE in your life, business and creativity.

This is your weekly wake up call to spend that 15 minutes, go back to your values, and actually let the monthly theme permeate your consciousness and your daily life.

So… pour yourself your favorite beverage, open up a journal, and commit yourself to the prompts and exercises below! This is how you leverage your Color Your Soul subscription the most -- by absorbing these insights and then actually applying them in your life!


Week 4:

Making A Plan

Alright, friends. As you know, the final week in each Soul Studies series is always about how we can continue to use the monthly theme in our lives moving forward. This is the time to develop a plan for ourselves so that the lessons we’ve learned these past four weeks don’t just disappear into the routine of our days.

Hopefully, through last week’s post on developing a practice, you’ve been able to explore new practical ways to fold gratitude into your day. But again, this week is about galvanizing that practice and making the commitment to keep including it as part of your life.

Before we get to that, a question:

In exploring the CYS issue or in seeing your own life through the lens of this monthly theme, are there any moments that stand out or overall insights about gratitude that have come to your attention?

If so, take a moment to write those down so you can remember the impact that a focus on gratitude has had for you.  

 

Now, to get you thinking about what that plan might look like, I have three more simple questions that I want you to consider:

 

  1. What’s one ACTION you can take at the beginning of each day to start your morning with gratitude? Write it down.

     

  2. What’s one ACTION you can take at the end of each day to close your evening with gratitude? Write it down.

     

  3. Finally, what’s one mantra you can say to yourself to bring you back to the present moment when you find your mind drifting to the past or the future?

 

 

As I’ve mentioned, The Five-Minute Journal has been immensely helpful to me for cultivating a morning and evening practice of gratitude, but I’ve also included reminders on my phone at 9am and 9pm as a back-up for the days when I slide back into my old ways and forget to carve out that time for gratitude.

As for my mantra, when I’m feeling worried about the future or fixated on the past or even stuck in my own head and clueless to the present moment, I simply say to myself “Come back to NOW.”

So that’s my plan! Now, what’s yours?


I’ve LOVED this entire month and it really has allowed me to see the idea of gratitude with more respect. No longer do I treat the concept as some sort of fad or mushy idea; I now know it to be a very powerful, impactful way to bring more sustained happiness to my life.

It has kept me focused on what I HAVE rather than what I don’t have, and ultimately I think that’s what makes the difference when it comes to sustained happiness.

I intend on making an effort to keep it top of mind moving forward, and I hope you do too!

I hope you’ve enjoyed the past few weeks of journal prompts and I hope this month of gratitude has enriched your life! Thanks for sharing the journey with me!

 
 

Week 3 of Gratitude: Developing A Practice

Welcome to Soul Studies -- prompts and questions to explore GRATITUDE in your life, business and creativity.

This is your weekly wake up call to spend that 15 minutes, go back to your values, and actually let the monthly theme permeate your consciousness and your daily life.

So… pour yourself your favorite beverage, open up a journal, and commit yourself to the prompts and exercises below! This is how you leverage your Color Your Soul subscription the most -- by absorbing these insights and then actually applying them in your life!


Week 3: 

Developing A Practice

It's probably no surprise to those of you who've been subscribers for months now, but when it comes to folding anything new and positive into my life, the greatest lesson I've learned is in developing a practice.

The simple truth is that if I allow it, life will carry me away in its current. The tasks of the day, the to-do lists, my inbox... all these things are like a river of reactivity and if I don't show up with intention and tether myself to a rock each and every morning, the things that I KNOW contribute to my most vibrant life often get pushed aside.

That rock is how I view developing a practice. Without a practice -- a consistent commitment to come back to -- it becomes all too easy to choose what is easy over what is beneficial.

And gratitude is no exception.

About four weeks ago, I decided I wanted to give this whole "gratitude practice" thing a try for the first time in my life. I have to tell you guys... it has made a HUGE impact on me in so many ways these past four weeks. I find that I'm infinitely more patient, more peaceful, more joyful and, surprisingly, more confident because bringing awareness to all that I have to be grateful for each day shifts my mindset from a place of scarcity to a place of abundance.

Tethering myself to that rock of practice each day reminds me that I am in control of the current, and it allows me to get my bearings so I can navigate the river of reactivity (not get swallowed by it.)

So anyway, instead of journal prompts today, my challenge for you this week is:

Can you commit to a daily gratitude practice for 5 minutes a day for the next week?

The key to sticking with any practice is this: Find what works for you.

Here are a few ideas that you might want to try:

  • Keep the Five Minute Journal by your bed (what I use)
  • Write down three things you're grateful for on a post-it in the morning
  • Post to the #dailygratitude channel in the CYS Slack
  • Share your gratitude list on social media
  • Write your daily gratitude in a journal
  • Begin a gratitude jar and add a small moment of thankfulness each day (you can go back through them as a family at the end of the week!)
  • Heck, you can even sing your gratitude in the shower!...

All I ask is that you try SOMETHING as an experiment if you don't already have a practice. I truly think it's one of the best, most powerful changes I've made in my life in a LONG time.


Developing a practice isn't always the easiest thing. It requires breaking some of your normal routines and habits, and that likely means there will be day when you forget or you ignore it completely. That's okay. Come back to it anyway. The beauty of a practice is you get deeper and better results the more you cultivate it, so trust in the positive impact that it could have on your outlook.

Gratitude is not some fluffy, empty concept. I have seen the very real, practical, and tangible effect it can have on your life -- if you're willing to make the time for it.

 
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Week 2 of Gratitude: Appreciating Your Progress

Welcome to Soul Studies -- prompts and questions to explore GRATITUDE in your life, business and creativity.

This is your weekly wake up call to spend that 15 minutes, go back to your values, and actually let the monthly theme permeate your consciousness and your daily life.

So… pour yourself your favorite beverage, open up a journal, and commit yourself to the prompts and exercises below! This is how you leverage your Color Your Soul subscription the most -- by absorbing these insights and then actually applying them in your life!


Week 2:

Appreciating Your Progress

As human beings, we are always adapting. It’s in our DNA.

The good news there is that even in negative circumstances, we have wiring that equips us for survival. The bad news there is that in positive circumstances, that same wiring often prevents us from staying fully aware of just how good things really are.

I see it in my own life all the time. For instance, as I shared with you in my Editor's Letter this month, my financial situation has changed drastically in a span of two years. I went from over-drafted accounts and maxed out credit cards to (very thankfully) no longer breaking into a cold sweat every time I log into my bank portal. I can splurge on the occasional nice dinner when I want and not freak if an unexpected expense pops up. BUT, based on that progress you'd think I wake up every morning thanking my lucky stars, yet some days I struggle to. That's that darn hedonic adaptation rearing it's ugly head again! Translation: We get used to the good stuff.  

Not to mention progress often happens so slowly that we don’t even recognize it as progress. Sometimes I look down at a piece of art I’ve created and I think “Gosh, that’s not very good.” Then I do a quick scan in my photos on my phone or take a look at my Instagram feed a year or two years ago and realize: a lot of what I can do with my art now I didn’t even KNOW how to do back then.

Suddenly it puts everything in perspective and I’m able to see my work with less criticism and more appreciation.

Perspective is a tool we can use to bring gratitude into our awareness.

That’s what I want today’s journal prompts to be about.

  • What’s one area of your life that you’re grateful for now but that you feel you take for granted (ie. you rarely think about how grateful you are for it.) Is there a moment in your life that provides context and perspective to help you see that thing more clearly in a light of gratitude?
     

  • Think of where you are today and what you plan to do (or what you did if you're reading this at night!).

    • Write down five ways you feel more vibrant NOW than you did at another time in your life. The purpose here is not to color the past with regret or pain but instead to bring awareness to a few ways that you’ve gained wisdom or made choices which deserve your attention, and yes, your gratitude.

  • Half Full Exercise: Is there one particular hurdle you’ve been facing lately that you have trouble taking gratitude in? Is there a way to reframe that situation from a new perspective so that you might see how it could be something to be grateful for?

    • Side note: While I think the whole “glass half full” approach gets flack for being overly idealistic, I don’t think that makes it any less useful in offering up moments to be grateful for. And I for one would rather walk around with feelings of thankfulness than dread or anger.

    • My example: There is a lot to be concerned and disheartened about in national/world politics from this past week, but using perspective as my tool, amidst all of that I can feel seeds of activism and advocacy sprouting up in me that I didn’t even know existed. I’m seeing my deep beliefs revealed to me through adversity. For that I’m grateful. (Notice is doesn't mitigate or erase the negative; it simply brings awareness to elements of reality that perhaps we might have missed by only focusing on the glass half empty.)


Those are just a few exercises that might help you use this powerful tool we call perspective and combat that hedonic treadmill programming that is ingrained in us. The more moments throughout the day when we can stop, take a breath and see our circumstances through a comparative lens (of our own experiences), the more we can continue to get value from the here and now.

 
 

Week 1 of Gratitude: Embracing The Now

Welcome to Soul Studies -- prompts and questions to explore GRATITUDE in your life, business and creativity.

We're back with a whole new 4-week series of Soul Studies, my friends! This is your weekly wake up call to spend that 15 minutes, go back to your values, and actually let the monthly theme permeate your consciousness and your daily life.

So… pour yourself your favorite beverage, open up a journal, and commit yourself to the prompts and exercises below! This is how you leverage your Color Your Soul subscription the most -- by absorbing these insights and then actually applying them in your life!


week #1: 

Embracing The Now

First, let me start with a question...

Do you know that feeling when you zone out for a bit and suddenly snap back to reality, realizing you weren't fully present in the time that just transpired?

I don’t just mean looking down at your phone or spacing out listening to music on a long drive and wondering where the time went. It’s not really an out-of-body feeling as much as it is a DEEP-inside-mind type of feeling -- like you ventured into Pixar's Inside Outworld and for a bit you were kind of trapped inside your own head.

(Okay, I just re-read that few sentences and I kind of sound crazy. But I’m banking on the fact that you’re a soulful creative and you can relate!)

What I've realized over the years about those deep falls down the rabbit hole of my own mind is that what lures me there is usually one of two things: 1) fixating on something that happened in the past or 2) worrying about something that has yet to happen in the future.

And when you go there -- when you try to leave the present moment to "time travel" to the past or future -- the unfortunate part is that you become num to the beauty of the reality that's right in front of you.

Thankfully, over the years I've been able to adopt a few strategies to help me recognize when I'm trying to "time travel" like this and how to pull me back.

Here are some prompts and exercises that can help you find your way back to the present moment should you fall down your own rabbit hole too.

  • Make a list of 5 things you’re worried about lately that exist only in the future.
    • Now, cross each one out and write: “I can’t predict or control how the future unfolds, but I CAN control what I choose to do right now.”
       
  • Make a list of 5 things things you still dwell on, feel guilt about, or replay in your head that happened in the past.
    • Now, cross each one out and write: “ I can’t change or erase how the past unfolded, but I CAN control what I choose to do right now."
       
  • How does it feel when you worry about the future or dwell on the past? What emotions or sensations do you experience?
     
  • And, on the contrary, when your present to the moment in front of you, how does that feel? What emotions or sensations do you experience?
     
  • What are a few red flags that tell you you are "checking out"? (Do you reach for your phone or tune out the person next to you or let the view that's before you start to dissolve?)
     
  • Exercise: Next time you notice yourself in a spiral of past or future-tripping, bring your awareness back to your senses. What do you hear right now? What do you smell? What do you feel around you? By focusing on your senses, you're bringing your consciousness to what is REAL and present before you, instead of inside your mind. Do this as long as it takes to bring you back to this moment. (Try this right now to practice!)

        ***

        Now, write a list of five SPECIFIC things that you're grateful for in THIS present moment:

        Is it the roof over your head right now? Access to the fresh water you used to make the coffee in that mug beside you? The sleeping pup that you love with your whole heart? The sun pouring in through your window?


        Coming back to the present moment — aside from being an ancient nugget of wisdom in many spiritual philosophies — is SUPER practical. It forces us to focus on what is actually REAL.

        Because, after all, the future is not only a ways off, but often our vision of the future is based largely on assumptions that never play out the way we imagine. And the past, well obviously we can’t go back and rewrite it the way we want so there’s no use spending any mental energy dwelling there.

        “All that is real is now.” By recognizing this, we're able to tether ourselves back to this very moment and detach from what may be weighing us down in the past or the future. 

        I hope this week's email has given you some food for thought when it comes to staying in the present. And remember, be kind to yourself when you realize you're straying to the past or future -- just gently guide your thoughts back to what lies before you and that's where you'll find gratitude.

        That's it for this time -- I'll see you next week!