Beth Gibbs: “Identify your thoughts”

Each layer operates moment to moment in our daily lives. If we move through our lives on autopilot with no awareness of our body, how we’re breathing, or our habits, routines, beliefs, emotions, impulses and reactions, we lose power. When we succeed in understanding how our layers work and how they are interconnected, we will […]

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Each layer operates moment to moment in our daily lives. If we move through our lives on autopilot with no awareness of our body, how we’re breathing, or our habits, routines, beliefs, emotions, impulses and reactions, we lose power. When we succeed in understanding how our layers work and how they are interconnected, we will gain a better understanding of how and why we react the way we do to what life presents. Then the choices we make are conscious. Our responses are healthier, balanced and more productive. This requires attention and effort. It will take time, but the result will be more clarity, contentment and resilience. In other words, the juice will be worth the squeeze.


Often when we refer to wellness, we assume that we are talking about physical wellbeing. But one can be physically very healthy but still be unwell, emotionally or mentally. What are the steps we can take to cultivate optimal wellness in all areas of our life; to develop Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing?

As a part of our series about “How We Can Do To Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Beth Gibbs.

After years of working for media, higher education and non-profit organizations, Beth Gibbs is ‘free-tired’ and pursuing her passions of writing, teaching, and leading workshops on yoga, personal growth and self-awareness. She is a certified yoga therapist, through the International Association of Yoga Therapists, a guest faculty member at the Kripalu School of Integrative Yoga Therapy, and a member of the writing team for the Yoga for Healthy aging blog. She is the author of a children’s book, Ogi Bogi, The Elephant Yogi, and a personal growth book for adults, Enlighten Up! Finding Clarity, Contentment and Resilience in a Complicated World. She blogs at https://www.bethgibbs.com/


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I was raised in a middle class Black family in a small New England factory town. We were not middle class by profession; my dad was a janitor and my mom, a secretary but we owned property. Because of the work ethic of my mom’s family in earlier generations we had two houses on two lots side-by-side. Both mortgages had been paid off long ago.

My mom worked during the day and my dad worked the night shift. Because my father needed to sleep during the day, my brother and I would go next door to Aunt Lucy’s house after school. The memories I have of that warm and welcoming refuge are many. They include the crystal bowl on her living room coffee table filled with peppermint candy, The can of Crisco she kept on the stove for frying chicken, and the Mulberry tree in the front yard with ripe juicy berries that stained my hands and mouth purple. I also remember her big hug and her laughter when my 10-year old self knocked on her door to tell her that I was running away to New York to be a dancer. Needless to say, my leotards, my tap shoes and me got no further than her dining room.

My mom was the rock on which my view of life as an adult was built. Of course we fought and disagreed on many things including my daydreaming bookish solitary ways. Through those normal mother-daughter struggles, I picked up life lessons I will be forever grateful for such as how to manage money and the importance of being self-reliant. Of course, there were a few others that I was determined not to repeat, like being a people-pleasing over-achiever. I did repeat that one but I’m in recovery!

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

I’ve worked in media, higher education and non-profit organizations in management and executive positions. I was good at the work but did not love it. I found my heart-felt career (which remained an avocation until ‘free-tirement’) six months after the birth of my son. I was on maternity leave, and feeling overwhelmed by new mom responsibilities. I started looking for help in one of my favorite places, a brick and mortar bookstore.

I scoured the self-help sections, picked up a yoga book by the late Richard Hittleman, took it home and started to practice on my own in true introvert fashion until a friend encouraged me to try a group class. I did and was hooked. A few years later, I discovered Integrative Yoga Therapy and my main teacher Joseph Le Page. I took the trainings, and earned a masters degree in yoga therapy and mind/body health from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. Now I have over twenty years experience teaching, training and mentoring hundreds of yoga students, teachers and therapists-in-training from all over the world. Most recently, Joseph wrote the foreword to my book, Enlighten Up!

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

Many people have written about messages of encouragement or discouragement they received in life. One is, “You’ll never amount to anything.” The other is, “You can do anything you set your mind to.” I heard neither of those. From my first year of life, the message I got from my mom, my Aunt Lucy, and my older cousin Ella was, “You have to amount to something. You have to get an education, a good job and be a credit to the race. You must always be independent and self-reliant because you will face a world that is stacked against you.”

I must have been around three or four years old when I had the following experience. My Aunt Lucy, who lived next door was fostering a teenage girl. One day I asked her what college she was going to go to. She laughed at my question and told me that she wasn’t going to college. I was shocked and confused because I thought everyone went to college. That’s how strong and clear my pre-school brain had taken in the message of self-sufficiency and the importance of education. Those messages of encouragement are still with me.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

The most challenging (and the shortest) position I ever held was running a public affairs department in a state university health center that was also a graduate school, training doctors and dentists. Getting anything done quickly and efficiently was like herding cats. I learned a lifelong lesson about trusting my gut instead of my brain, which had chosen the large salary, and what appeared to be a great opportunity.

I reported directly to the president. One day he asked me to become his executive assistant. He said, “I expect you to stay up nights, thinking of ways to make me look good.” I knew, given his personality, that if I didn’t, he would find a way to fire me. I knew this because I’d watched him do this with others. I proposed a three-month trail period, working halftime as his assistant and halftime running my department. My thought was to buy time to manage the situation without losing my job.

Of course, it didn’t work. I balked at carrying out some directives I knew were unethical and in short order, the writing was on the wall. He put my department under the development office. I now reported to someone who clearly had instructions from him to find a way to demote and/or fire me. At that time, the center wanted to hire a public relations agency. I suggested that the center needed to address a variety of internal issues first. If we did not, I knew the agency wouldn’t be able to do what was being asked of it. My new boss hired the agency anyway and my prediction came true. At my next evaluation, I was presented with a document, which put the failure of that project on my shoulders. I refused to sign off on it and within six weeks found a job that my gut liked. I handed in my resignation. The lesson? For me compatibility, contentment and a happy gut overrule salary and title.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott made a huge impact on me as a shy introspective child who liked to read and write poems and stories. It was my favorite at the time because of Jo, a young woman who was less interested in learning ‘womanly ways’ and more interested in exploring her own interests, which were reading, writing and her individuality. I so related to Jo. She was a lot like the women in my family. They were role models for the woman I wanted to be and hope I’ve become.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“Voyager, there are no bridges, one builds them as one walks.” — Gloria Anzaldúa

I first read this on a calendar of inspirational daily quotes many years ago. It was printed on the December 28th page. I ripped it out and stuck it on my refrigerator. It has been with me through three moves and four refrigerators.

It resonated because I have been working with the five-layers of self-awareness model from the earliest days of my yoga training. The visual of building bridges between the five-layers (physical, breath/energy, mind, intuitive wisdom/witness and bliss) was a perfect analogy.

When the connections (or bridges) between the five layers are in good repair with wide, clearly marked lanes, our whole being is in optimal alignment. If one or more is damaged or in need of repair, the messages that go back and forth are jumbled. It can be tricky to figure out which ones to listen to. That’s why self-awareness skills are important.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

Currently, I’m working on another personal growth book intended for anyone who has ever been made to feel less than, left out or other’d. It will provide down-to-earth information, and guidelines on what it takes to confront this reality and respond with assertiveness, authenticity and compassion.

My other project is a short story collection to further the theme of self-awareness. It is a celebration of human connection and the tenacity of the human spirit.

My hope is that the books will spark in the reader a desire for to develop and deepen their own self-awareness skills to find more clarity, contentment and resilience in this complicated world we all share.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In this interview series we’d like to discuss cultivating wellness habits in four areas of our lives, Mental wellness, Physical wellness, Emotional wellness, & Spiritual wellness. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Here is a three-step process for working toward optimal mental wellness.

Step 1. Identify your thoughts.

Learn to observe and label them. For example:

  • What am I thinking?
  • Are my thoughts focused on the past? The future? My current situation?
  • Are my thoughts helpful or unhelpful?

Step 2. Explore your beliefs.

Learn to uncover and recognize your core beliefs. For example:

  • What do I believe about my current situation?
  • Is it connected to what I believe I about others or myself?
  • Does this belief lead to helpful or unhelpful thoughts, emotions and behaviors?

Step 3. Create A Positive Resolve.

Once you have uncovered an unhelpful thought or belief you’d like to change, create a positive resolve — a short sentence stated in the present tense.

Instructions

First write down the thought or belief you’d like to change. Then write down the opposite thought or belief. This will shift and reframe your awareness and attention from the unhelpful to the positive. Here are some examples.

Unhelpful Thought/Belief Positive Resolve

I can’t trust anybody/I trust myself

I’ll never be happy/I enjoy life. I’m content.

I’m too (fat, short, tall, etc.)/I accept myself as I am, warts and all

If you choose to use this technique for more practical matters, like losing weight or expanding your business, you can word your resolve this way:

I am a healthy weight.

I am a successful business owner.

To keep it top of mind, write your resolve on sticky notes and tack them on your refrigerator, closet door or bathroom mirror to act as daily reminders. You can journal about it, or state it silently or aloud to reinforce your goal.

Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.

I’ve been practicing yoga since 1968. My practice has changed over the years and is now much gentler. I’ve learned that posture practice is one small part of a full yoga practice, and I’ve learned to take my yoga off the mat and into my daily life moment-to-moment. My current posture practice changes day-to-day. Some days I’ll do a gentle restorative sequence. On other days I’ll do modified or full Sun Salutations or spend ten minutes in Legs-On-The-Chair Pose. What I do always depends on how I feel and what my body needs. I don’t do gotta’s.

Over the past year, I have added a meditation practice. I started with three minutes. Today I’m up to 21 minutes on the way to my goal of 30 minutes. I do a concentration practice, silently repeating ‘So’ as I inhale and ‘Ham’ as I exhale. The phrase So Ham translates as ‘I am that’ — a reminder that unity and connection is our ultimate reality. My latest meditation metaphor is: If a good night’s sleep washes toxins from the brain, then morning meditation is the final rinse.

Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Here are three ways to incorporate awareness of body sensations in everyday life.

1. Body Stretch and Scan. This technique helps us tune into messages and sensations the body sends that our minds may not notice if our attention is focused on doing instead of being. I recommend doing this exercise before getting out of bed in the morning. The whole process takes less than five minutes and can be done in any order.

Instructions for the Body Stretch

  • Stretch and wiggle your fingers and toes.
  • Roll your wrists and ankles in little circles in one direction and then in the other.
  • Inhale as you raise your arms overhead and stretch your whole body.
  • Roll onto one side and stretch or twist in any way you like.
  • Roll onto your other side and stretch or twist in any way you like.
  • Roll onto your back and bring both knees into your chest. If that is not comfortable open the knees toward the armpits (right knee to right armpit, left knee to left armpit.) Place your hands behind the thighs or below the knees, gently press and hold for a few breaths.
  • Release the knees, find a comfortable position and scan your body.

Instructions for the Body Scan

In this exercise, you bring your attention to each part of your body and look for sensations such as comfort, discomfort, openness, contraction, pain, warmth, coolness, pulsing, heaviness, lightness, etc. If you notice nothing, just notice that. I start with my toes and work upward but if you are drawn to scan your body from head to toe — go with it. You may find it helpful to record your scan at a pace you prefer and follow along until you can do it on your own.

Bring your awareness to your feet. Notice your feet, your toes, — — — the tops of your feet — — — — the bottoms of your feet — — your heels — — — ankles — — — lower legs — — — -knees — — — upper legs — — — belly — — — low back- — — rib cage — — — mid back — — — chest — — — upper back — — — shoulders — — — arms — — -hands — — fingers.

Draw your awareness from your hands and fingers — — — up through your lower arms, — — — to your elbows — — — to your neck and to your face and up to the top of your head.

Be aware of your whole body from the tips of your toes to the top of your head. Sense and feel your whole body — — — notice any sensations or messages your body is sending you. Notice what you notice. Accept and welcome what you notice. When you feel complete, take a few long deep breaths, take another full body stretch, let your feet hit the floor and begin your day.

2. The Check In

Checking in with the body from time to time during the day can help us take appropriate action to what we sense and feel.

For example, if you:

  • Pay attention to your mouth, you may find sensations of dryness that can be addressed by drinking a glass or two of water.
  • Notice your focus and attention to a task faltering, you can take a break to rest and refresh instead of pushing through.
  • Notice strain or pain signals from your lower back, you may find relief by spending ten minutes in Legs-On-The-Chair Pose. Lie down on the floor and put your legs on a chair so your body forms 90-degree angles. Set a timer and let go.
  • Notice that your breathing is shallow and centered in your chest, you can try: Relaxation Breathing. Sit comfortably. Close the eyes or if you choose to keep them open soften your gaze and look down toward the floor. Inhale normally. When you exhale hold the breath out and silently count “one thousand one, one thousand two.” Continue for 2–3 minutes or longer. This breathing technique automatically brings awareness to the breath, slows the rate of breathing and lengthens the exhalation. This calms the nervous system.

I have been honing my ability to pay attention to my body’s messages since I learned the importance of the practice in my first yoga teacher training. It’s not automatic. It’s a lifelong practice. Here’s a recent example.

I start out most days with a mental or written, to do list. The purpose of the list is to check off every item before evening arrives. One morning, I had five items on my list.

1. Exercise class

2. Make a deposit at the bank

3. Pick up new sunglasses

4. Buy sheets and a non-stick sauté pan

5. Stop at Trader Joe’s for groceries

After items one and two were checked off, I picked up the sunglasses and was on the way to cross number four off my list, when my body sent a clear message that lunchtime had come and gone and it wanted food. Instead of pushing through, I listened then drove to a nearby restaurant for a small salad and half a sandwich. While I ate, my mind was busy planning the most efficient way to complete the last two items on my list. In spite of feeling my energy drain, my mind planned to push through to the goal of ‘done.’

My body simply refused to get up from the chair. How interesting! I knew I could ignore my body but I decided to sit still and pay attention. I noticed that my thighs were sore, my shoulders felt heavy and my brain was fogging. My body was sending clear signals. I left the last two items for another day and headed home to take a nap.

3. Shake It Off

This is a favorite of mine and has been a part of every class and workshop I’ve done for many years. I learned a version of this in a Qi Gong class and eagerly adopted it for myself, and my students. It’s said to balance and re-distribute energy in the body and reduce stress in as little as five minutes.

Instructions

  • Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend your knees slightly and begin to shake your legs.
  • Move the vibration up into your torso.
  • Next, shake your wrists, and move the shaking up your arms to your shoulders.
  • Invite your head to join the party if that feels comfortable.
  • Feel free to raise your arms or bend forward or backward
  • Allow your whole body to shake, and vibrate.
  • When done, simply stand, or sit, quietly.
  • Feel the effects of shaking your body and shifting your energy.

This can also be done seated in a chair.

Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

Food is a weighty issue for most of us and I, like many, struggled with it for years before serving myself a healthy dose of self-awareness that helped me make peace with what I eat. We are encouraged to eat healthy, unprocessed food when possible and adopt a regular exercise schedule to keep our systems in balance and functioning well.

This is different for each of us and it has to be, because what we choose to eat for optimal health is ultimately based on our individual needs. It takes attention, clarity and self-awareness, to know what that is, to do what works, to stick to it for as long as it works and to be flexible enough to change it when it no longer works.

What blocks us from doing that? For starters, eating healthy can be expensive and processed food is cheap and easy to obtain. It takes time to prepare fresh food that doesn’t come in cans or boxes and requires self-awareness in the form of intention, and discipline, which are often in short supply in our fast moving ‘I want it now’ society.

There is an interesting connection between what we eat and what eats us. When we are upset, troubled or under stress, we may begin to crave sugar, salt or fat in the form of bread, candy, cookies, chips, or fried foods. Emotional eating may calm stressful feelings for short periods of time but self-awareness around food is a long-term process and ultimately a healthier one.

Here’s a suggestion to enhance self-awareness around food choices. When you get that impulse or craving for sugar, salt or fat, first check in with your mind and ask why.

When I get a craving it’s usually for sugar, more specifically, chocolate. I’m a chocoholic. If I act unconsciously, and sometimes I do, I move directly from impulse to action. My hand dips into my chocolate drawer and ‘booya!’ a piece of chocolate is inhaled. Yes, I have a drawer in my kitchen dedicated to bars of dark chocolate. At least it’s the healthy kind.

However, if can I catch that craving as it arises, I call on my self-awareness skills to consider the consequences of my anticipated action, and ask, “Why am I feeling this? Where did it come from? Do I really need a chocolate hit now? Am I willing to accept the consequences since chocolate indulgences after 3:00 pm mess with my digestion? Sometimes my answer is yes, and sometimes it’s no. The skills involved are SOS: Stop, and Observe before Selecting an action. That way it’s a conscious response and not an impulsive reaction.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

The words “emotion” and “feeling” are often used interchangeably, but science perceives emotions and feelings as two closely related, but distinct, things. Emotions are physical responses to stimuli that begin deep in the brain and result in physical sensations and biochemical reactions. Feelings, on the other hand, are said to be the result of having emotions. They are mental associations and reactions to emotions. What we feel is influenced by our experiences, beliefs, and memories.

How many emotions are there? Some experts say there are eight: joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger and anticipation. Some identify six: happiness, sadness, surprise, fear, anger, and disgust. Others, five: anger, fear, grief, joy and love. And some say four: anger, fear, happiness and sadness.

However many you experience, it’s helpful to develop a habit of witnessing and labeling them as something you experience but not who you are. For example, instead of saying, “I am angry,” you can reframe the experience by saying, “I feel angry.” This creates a bit of distance so you can de-construct your emotional palette and respond more appropriately to what you are facing.

If you want to move closer to the goal of optimal emotional wellness, join the Triple A Club. The ‘A’s are: Acknowledge, Accept, and then Act. There are no dues, no meetings, no products and no rules. Simply try the following technique. If it works for you, it’s yours for life. If it doesn’t, search until you find one that does.

Instructions

When you feel an emotion:

Acknowledge it. Acknowledging and naming your emotions in whatever form they present themselves to you is the first step to figuring out where they show up in your body, what triggers them, and what your mind thinks and feels about them.

Accept

  • Accept that your emotions are real. They are part and parcel of what paints your worldview, and your reactions or responses to what happens in your life.
  • Accept that your emotions are yours. They are legitimate, and you have a right to acknowledge and experience them, no matter what anyone else says.
  • Accept that you, and you alone, are responsible to find ways to manage the colors of your emotional palette in wise and balanced ways at any given moment.

Act

When something triggers you and you need to address it, acknowledge and name what you’re feeling, accept that it is whatever it is, and then take, skillful action. For example:

  • When you feel happy or excited, smile and dance as though no one is watching. And if someone is watching, dance anyway!
  • If you’re feeling sad, try moving. Research shows that movement is an excellent antidote for sadness.
  • If you are feeling angry, take a few deep breaths; get clear on your ‘why’ and the most appropriate way to respond.

The more comfortable you become with your emotional palette, its shades and layers, the more you will develop ways to acknowledge, accept and act appropriately to express them.

Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.

Psychiatrists and researchers tell us that smiling and laughter improve emotional wellness. They are important techniques in the toolbox of self-awareness and they are all free!

Our ability to observe our experiences with humor and without judgment helps us avoid taking ourselves too seriously and can help us deal with difficult situations. A sense of humor is defined as the ability to perceive, appreciate or express what is funny, amusing or ludicrous. Having a sense of humor means being able to smile, laugh at, or at least see the humor in life’s absurdities and problems. And with global warming, political storming and the corona virus we have all the absurdities and problems we can handle at the moment.

The yoga tradition recognizes the ability to smile as one way to boost emotional wellness. Here is a mudra to encourage smiling. You can think of mudras as a global positioning system (GPS), providing directions to your mental/emotional energy to help you tune into and express a specific goal or value that is already in you but needs awakening.

Practice Smiling

Gesture of The Inner Smile, is a mudra for cultivating a feeling of lightness. It is called “Hansi Mudra” and is helpful when your spirits need a lift.

Instructions

  • Touch the tips of your index, middle and ring fingers to the thumbs on each hand.
  • Extend your pinky finger straight out.
  • Rest the backs of your hands on your thighs or knees.
  • Or you can raise your hands out to the sides of the your body with the pinky fingers pointing upwards.
  • Relax your shoulders and keep your spine comfortably aligned.
  • Breathe naturally.

Hold Gesture of the Inner Smile, for two — five minutes or longer if you are comfortable.

Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

This question relates to the advice to ‘follow your bliss.’ Here are three suggestions to do that.

1. Find Your Bliss.

Questions to consider:

  • Have you ever had moments of true contentment and joy in your life?
  • What were you doing when you experienced those feelings?
  • What would you need to do to bring those feelings to your life on a more frequent basis?

2. Connect To Your Bliss.

Suggestions to consider:

  • Focus on the journey, your evolution, personal growth and search for meaning.
  • Don’t obsess about it or try to convince others that your way is the right and only way.
  • Explore, identify and soften any attachments or desires you have to be in control of your experience.

3. Bring Bliss Into Your Daily Life.

Work to do:

  • Define your values.
  • Live your values through your actions.
  • Share your values with others, perhaps through community service or volunteering.

Practicing Bliss

Find a space, a span of time or an activity that can ground you, calm you, and help you cope with the ups and downs of life. In your quiet space you can spend a few minutes as a human being instead of a human doing. This will help you, ‘go with the flow,’ even when the flow is decidedly not moving in your direction. If your path lies along the religious, spiritual or philosophical, you might find contentment and joy in these practices:

  • Prayer
  • Special rituals
  • Scripture reading
  • Fasting
  • Meditation

Maybe your path is material-world practical, and you might find contentment and joy in activities, such as:

  • Hobbies, like sports, gardening, arts and crafts
  • A cup of tea and a good book on a rainy day
  • Spending time in nature (walk in the woods, canoe, hike, etc.)
  • A long talk with a good friend
  • Being on the receiving end of an hour-long massage

Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?

Being in nature is one way to connect to your spiritual wellness, especially when time, space, mind and the ego-I disappear into the experience. In those instances we are totally absorbed into the present and are connected to ‘all that is.’ It’s pretty awesome when it happens, but we won’t recognize it until it’s over because we (the ego-I) have completely disappeared into the moment.

The first time I experienced this was during a family vacation in Maine. I was twelve years old. We were hiking with friends on Mount Megunticook. It was my first hike, and it was a steep trail. I don’t remember what I was thinking as we went up the mountain, but when we got to the top and looked out over the landscape I was in awe and lost all sense of time, space, mind and my twelve-year year-old ego-I. I was completely absorbed in at the moment. It took my breath away. I have never forgotten it.

Those experiences are rare but often just being in nature with no expectations can bring about an internal sense of calm and peace. Finding your place in nature is helpful. Are you a forest, water, mountain, dessert or open plains person? It’s worth finding out.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Popularize the five-layer model of self-awareness. The model proposes that we are much more than a mind interacting with a body. Understanding ourselves through the five layers of being provides a 360-degree view of what it means to be human and gives us a broader foundation for self-exploration than the more well known mind/body model. The first known mention of the five layers of self-awareness (the koshas) comes from the Taittiriya Upanishad, a 3,000-year-old philosophical text from India.

The five layers are:

  1. Physical — This includes your body and your environment. This is you: your size, shape, gender identification, race and ethnicity, anatomy, physiology, your home and the planet we all share.
  2. Energetic — This includes your breath and energy levels. The oxygen you breathe nourishes your body and brain and sustains life. Your energy is that invisible life force that animates you at all levels and enables you to think, create, move, love, work and navigate all that life brings.
  3. Mental — Your thoughts, beliefs and emotions. This is how you think, what you think about, what you believe, and how you experience and express your emotions.
  4. Intuitive wisdom — This is the witness, the ability to observe all of your layers and your life with compassion and without judgment to consciously make (or not) more informed choices.
  5. Bliss — This is your connection to something larger than yourself. This can be spiritual, religious, or a deep connection to a healthy passion or the natural world.

Each layer operates moment to moment in our daily lives. If we move through our lives on autopilot with no awareness of our body, how we’re breathing, or our habits, routines, beliefs, emotions, impulses and reactions, we lose power. When we succeed in understanding how our layers work and how they are interconnected, we will gain a better understanding of how and why we react the way we do to what life presents. Then the choices we make are conscious. Our responses are healthier, balanced and more productive. This requires attention and effort. It will take time, but the result will be more clarity, contentment and resilience. In other words, the juice will be worth the squeeze.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I would love a private breakfast or lunch with Jay Shetty, author of the book Think Like a Monk. He is a storyteller, podcaster and former monk.

His stated mission is to share the timeless wisdom of the world in an accessible, relevant, and practical way. It’s mine as well. In spite of our different lives and experiences, we draw from many of the same wells of wisdom. I was amazed and gratified to see that our approach to these ancient teachings is similar.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My website is: bethgibbs.com

Blogs:

Yoga for Healthy Aging: yogaforhealthyaging.blogspot.com

Accessible Yoga: accessibleyoga.blogspot.com

Social Media:

facebook.com/bethagibbs

instagram.com/bethagibbs/

linkedin.com/in/beth-gibbs

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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