New York Times best-selling author Kathy Freston has produced a popular series of guided meditation CDs on relationships, healing the body and prosperity. But in her new book, she hones in on the mind-body-spirit connection.
"Quantum Wellness: A Practical and Spiritual Guide to Health and Happiness" acts as an instructive book to teach readers how to reach their highest level of health and contentment through small but focused changes.
On "Good Morning America" today, she talked about five steps you can take to acheive happiness:
For the Body: 21-Day Cleanse Diet
For the Mind: Meditation
For the Spirit: Service to Others
For the Mind: Visualization
For the Mind and Spirit: Journaling
Read an excerpt of the book below.
What Is Quantum Wellness?
Making the Body-Mind-Spirit Connection
IF AN OLD FRIEND WERE TO GREET YOU ON THE STREET AND ASK, "How are you?" what would it take for you to answer honestly, "I'm very well, thank you"?
The truth is, many of us have no idea. We tend to think of being well as having no illness or trouble gnawing at us at that particular moment. We confuse wellness with an absence of something—a lack of pain or bodily complaints. But is that really wellness?
Or is wellness something far greater, far more exhilarating and alive? With this book, I hope to convince you that wellness is a condition involving every aspect of your being—body, mind, and spirit. That to be truly well means to be operating at full throttle no matter your age or position in life; to be in a constant dance of pushing past previous limits and breaking new ground. You feel like you are in the center of the vortex of life, filled with energy and a creative spark. You have a certain zip in your gait and a warm feeling of peace in your heart, and it is as if there is some supercharged energy flowing through you. You feel brilliantly alive and connected to everything that is.
Is this too much to ask, especially given the state of the nation, the global community, the planet?
And it isn't all that hard to do.
As I will show you in this book, wellness begins with paying attention to the little stuff, and then it swells in momentum until we find ourselves on a whole new playing field. We start by taking a look at our lives with honest eyes and then setting a few clear intentions to change. We take a small step here, and another there, and before we know it, we are made new.
You see, wellness is not so much a goal as a process, a journey, a way of orienting yourself toward life. It's a feeling of total participation that involves being in balance in the three key dimensions of body, mind, and spirit, and always looking at your actions and responses to life as they affect these three dimensions and are affected by them. It's about how you eat, how you listen to and take care of your body, how you process your feelings and connect to the larger world.
Yes, it is possible to achieve this state of wellness. I have done it, and I have helped or witnessed many other people doing it, too. In this book, we will start small but we will always be holistic in our approach. For example, when I talk about eating, I'm going to look at food as a fuel that can support (or undermine) your body, your mind, and your spirit. I will also suggest a way of eating that does no harm to the rest of the planet. That may seem next to impossible. It's hard enough to get a healthy meal on the table without having to think about the environmental impact of every single thing on your plate. And when you have no time to begin with, you sometimes want to throw up your hands and grab a burger. But I will show you how possible it really is. You'll take some comfortable, small steps, develop a few new shopping and cooking habits—easy ones, delicious ones— and pretty soon you'll find yourself making healthier and healthier food choices all the time, without much effort at all.
The same goes for making room for feeling your feelings or tending to your spirit or your weight or your aches and pains. Small steps—simple changes to what you eat; a few new exercises; slight shifts in the way you perceive and resolve conflict, in the way you communicate; some gentle new practices to strengthen your spiritual life—followed by a few more small steps, and pretty soon you'll discover you've taken a quantum leap in how you feel and how you experience life.
The term quantum brings to mind several meanings. Primarily, it refers to very tiny particles and waves that are invisible to the naked eye. It also brings to mind a sudden leap from one virtual state into a new manifest state, as if a particular result had been plucked out of a sea of potentialities. And lastly, this leap, or spontaneous shift, is very much affected by the observer. So quantum wellness, to me, is about the tiny little things that we invest our energy in every day and every moment. These little investments of attention hold us in a steady and predictable place. But when we make shifts—no matter how small and subtle—we agitate the norm. And the more we turn our attention to wellness—to eating consciously (both for ourselves and for its comprehensive impact; more on that later), to resolving our interpersonal conflicts, to reducing our footprint, just to name a few—the more we stoke the fires of change. The momentum we generate through our actions leads, eventually, to a tipping point, and then there is a breakthrough, a quantum leap. We get to breakthrough levels of wellness by turning our attention to those things that add to the force field of wellness.
Quantum wellness is not about imposing big changes but about leaning into wellness, comfortably, adding things here and there to the thrust and taking baby steps toward the changes we want to achieve.
Think about it. This happens in life all the time. Maybe you are someone who used to be anxious all the time, relying on antianxiety medication to get through the day, and then one day realized that you hadn't taken your medication for a while and you were just fine. (By the way, I don't recommend going off any medication without the help or advice of a health-care professional.) You aren't sure if it was the exercise regimen that soothed your nerves or the new friends you chose to be around or the fact that you gave up drinking caffeine. All you know is that you are not a wreck anymore. Or maybe you were like me and had acne for as long as you could remember, but then woke up one morning with clear skin and never had so much as another blemish. I'm not sure if I just grew through the hormonal period or if my skin looks better because I changed my diet and drink more water. In each of these examples, there were lots of little changes made, but something big and monumental resulted.
These shifts reshape our lives. Of course, they don't come out of nowhere: they're not magic. We have to do the footwork to make them happen. But it's the small, incremental changes that vault us to a new experience of ourselves. Remember that as you approach this work. So how do quantum leaps happen? And can we help them happen? Can we be more in control of them so that we can create transformation in our lives? Good questions.
The fact is, we don't really know the very specifics of how a quantum leap happens per se, and that tends to make us nervous. Even the greatest of quantum physicists doesn't really understand the exact mechanism. But the point is, they do happen. The implication here is that we too can affect the probability of something spectacular materializing by the energy we put into supporting the new. No, this doesn't mean we can hold in our mind a picture of a 24- inch waist and then suddenly shrink. That would be magical thinking. Quantum thinking isn't about kicking back and doing nothing, it's about understanding the incredible power of consciousness and choice. And doing things with relative ease.
Don't worry. No one is suggesting that you relinquish your worldly love of "stuff" or move to a mountaintop in order to be a more spiritual person; you can be conscious while also enjoying the things that make you happy. Quantum wellness isn't about deprivation and it's not about perfection. It is about pointing yourself in the direction of growth, training yourself to get comfortable with your highest potential, and then taking small steps to support that shift. It's about showing up for yourself, day by day, and then one day finding that you've undergone a transformation.
I have been at this self-improvement game for a long time and have spent many (too many) years trying to follow guidelines and stick to rules put forth by various gurus. But I always ended up feeling like a failure. When I ate too much sugar, I crucified myself, which of course made me eat even more. When I missed too many days of exercise, I fell into slothful periods that sometimes lasted for months. If I wasn't meditating regularly, I figured I was just not cut out for the spiritual life and gave up. By being so demanding of myself, I ended up getting nowhere; the do-or-die approach definitely did not work with me.
And then I discovered that change and growth are part of our nature. We just have to point ourselves in the right direction and start moving toward what it is we want to manifest. We have to accept where we are and make peace with it, and we'll find the strength and the will to change. I know that's how it worked for me.
When I made the decision to accept myself as I was, I began to eat better, exercise regularly, and do all the things I had always wanted to do. It wasn't that it just happened by itself, but it happened naturally and without too much stress. And now, looking back, I can see that I was taking four simple steps:
1. Listen and learn.
2. Set an intention.
3. Come up with a plan.
4. Make the move.
For example, I used to smoke a pack of cigarettes a day. I tried so many times to quit: I drenched the pack with water so I couldn't retrieve the cigarettes. I did acupuncture to foil the desire. I wore a patch. I underwent hypnosis. Nothing worked. So I just gave up and said, "Okay, this is where I am now." All the while I kept reading about what nicotine does to the body and how smoking hurts your lungs and immune system. Not to mention how it ages your skin. I just listened and learned. I didn't resist the information; I simply took it in (while still smoking) and let it settle into my mind. Then I set my intention to be a nonsmoker. I didn't know how I would get there, because I had failed so many times, but I just put it out there to the world that I wanted to be a person who smelled good and enjoyed downtime without jonesing for the next drag. I didn't beat myself up every time I lit up, but I did think about the information I had downloaded. And I began to feel my energy moving in the direction of healing, just trusting that I would get there. After a few months of this, I came up with a plan to attend a smoking cessation workshop, which I would follow with a week's vacation away by myself. Once again I put it out into the ether that I was ready and willing to act when the time felt right.
Three days later I was flipping through a neighborhood periodical and came across an ad that seemed to jump off the page for a "stop smoking" class, and I made my move.
This whole process—from gathering information to going away on a solo vacation—probably lasted six months, but it stuck because I simply allowed myself to be where I was and to go at my own pace. Had I tried to do it all in one grandiose move, I probably would have fallen back into my old habit, but since I saw myself on a path, I felt comfortable just nudging myself gradually in the right direction. We are all at various points along the continuum of wellness; we arrive at and handle different junctures according to our own personal comfort levels. We may be ahead of the game in physical fitness while lagging behind in spiritual awareness, or very emotionally and psychologically astute but lazy in the way we eat. It's all okay. We just have to be willing to be honest with ourselves about where we are and then work to bring ourselves up to speed wherever growth is needed.
We can hasten our progress by taking an honest inventory and then mapping out where we'd like to go. For me and my nicotine addiction, I knew there was a better way to live, and I wanted to move in the direction of being free of the habit. At the same time I very much wanted to keep doing what I was doing. I loved the social bonding with other smokers; I loved the ritual of settling into the day with a smoke to get my adrenaline flowing. But I also knew I couldn't advance in my life— physically or emotionally—without dealing with my attachment to a bad dependency. I knew where I was on my continuum and decided it was time to press onward.
After I quit, my life took a leap forward. I began to work with cancer patients, teaching them guided meditation and breathing exercises, not as a direct result of quitting smoking, but more as part of a "grand plan" for my life. I certainly couldn't have taken that direction had I remained a smoker. No one wants to smell smoke on their counselor; and who would have believed I knew what I was talking about if I couldn't even shed my own unhealthy habit? The point is, once I followed through on my decision to change in one area of my life, other areas also experienced a major shift. I went from being a barely working model to being a writer and counselor. Quitting smoking had always seemed nearly impossible, but I accomplished it by staying relaxed about it, taking very doable steps, and allowing myself to be directed by an inner compass. I showed up as a willing participant in my own conscious evolution, let the momentum build, and the rest unfolded with and for me. Our development is an unfinished and ongoing story. That's what is so exciting; we are creating ourselves and our world as we go. And every little move we make, each decision and perception we land on, makes a difference in how things unfold.
Imagine yourself standing at the edge of a pond. The water is calm, placid, and smooth like glass. In your hand, you hold a pebble. You drop the pebble into the water, and from the place where the pebble submerges, ripples ruffle the water's surface. The small waves start at the point of the pebble's entry, and they make their way the entire distance to the banks of the pond, touching the earth in waves. You are the pond, and every thought, action, and feeling is a pebble, influencing your body, relationships, future, and present moment. In your existence, there is no insignificant moment. The universe is also that pond, and you are that pebble. Your life, energy, and love echo energetically to the very edges of all creation. You have that much power.
To help you understand this critical point, we can look to an interesting discovery made in meteorology called the butterfly effect. In 1961, Edward Norton Lorenz entered a figure for wind velocity into a computer in an attempt to predict weather conditions. Taking a shortcut, he entered .506 instead of .506127. What he found was astounding: that tiny difference of .000127 radically altered the ensuing weather scenario. The concept Lorenz developed around his findings became known as the butterfly effect, because a wind velocity difference of .000127 seems so totally insignificant—much like the difference in velocity that might be caused by the flapping wings of a butterfly. Lorenz concluded that the slightest and seemingly most insignificant initial condition could drastically modify the weather going forward. That tiny variation could create such a different path or momentum, that it might in fact initiate a chain of meteorological events that could change a sunny day into a tornado. In chaos theory, this is known as sensitive dependence on initial conditions. A tiny shift matters that much. The message is obvious, and I find the metaphorical conclusion—that every action, no matter how small, can cause a huge reaction somewhere else or at some future time—to be profound (and true).
The more we adjust or shift—even in tiny ways—the more we can look forward to sweeping changes showing up in our lives. We can cut one thing out of our diet, add a minute or two of meditation, or turn our attention just for a moment toward kindness, and before we know it we are different people creating a different world. This far-reaching shift is dependent entirely on our willingness to consistently move along the wellness continuum, in whatever incremental ways we can. In the atmosphere, as in life, every small factor is significant and influential. This is why setting your intention and living your life in a way that pulls you toward your ultimate empowerment—in every moment—is so important. You can direct your experience of life in such a fundamental way. Every conversation you have, every morsel you eat, every purchase you make, and on and on, factors in to where you will find yourself in a week, a year, or a decade. A friend of mine likes to remind me that even just wearing a button or putting a bumper sticker on your car can change the course of history. That's not just hyperbole. Think about it. Say the button sparks a conversation in the checkout line in the supermarket. The person you chatted with then adopts the change you are promoting. You have just changed every remaining day of that person's life. And if that person decides to make that advocacy issue his life's mission, well then, his excitement will generate yet more new waves in the world (or pond!) and thus the dance of life takes a new twist! All from simply putting a bumper sticker on your car or wearing a button. Every little thing you do adds up and before you know it you've created your life. And how you create your life ripples out and affects everyone and everything that crosses your path, known or unknown to you.
Now imagine that you are in a rowboat, and everything you do is one push of the paddle. Is it a strong stroke, moving you forward? Or is it sideways or chaotic, leaving you vulnerable to the current? Think of this wellness journey as that rowboat. Once you get the hang of rowing with the current and not against it, in harmony with who you truly are at your highest potential, every move you make will move you forward with greater efficiency. Just follow the rhythm of the current, add to it some of your own muscle, and you'll soon be amazed at how your momentum increases and you start meeting and surpassing your goals.
As you awaken to this power to affect your life, pay close attention to your feelings and observations. Ask yourself: Where am I now and where do I want to be? Just be aware. The more you become aware of the effects of each choice you make, the more you will be able to choose differently and better for yourself. As you live more creatively, you'll be amazed at how these small moments come together and inform your big breakthroughs.
Body, mind, and spirit all work together to create wellness, and we simply cannot experience the upsurge, the full thrust required for a quantum shift when any of these three areas goes unheeded. We can go to the gym every day and eat the right foods, but if our souls are sick, we won't be well. We can meditate till the cows come home and yet not feel quite right in our bodies if we are still smoking or eating sugar or feeling belittled at work. But don't worry: being imperfect is all part of the process. We don't have to be masterful. We need not get everything just right. We just need to push ourselves a little bit here and there to get the momentum going, and from that, strength and confidence will settle into the parts of us that lag behind. And then the magic happens: momentous changes occur seemingly on their own. Look at it this way: all the bits and pieces of our lives fit and flow together like an ever-shifting matrix of influences. We are in constant formation, and there comes a moment—unchosen and unforeseeable by us—when everything just clicks, and a leap occurs. An organism or species evolves through multiple and simultaneous changes. Our musculature—both intellectual and biological— must be worked on even as our spiritual sights are raised. And everything goes into the creative—or evolutionary—soup. We throw in a bit of this, stir in a bit of that—until we find we've created something new for ourselves.
The game is about learning how to evolve more and more efficiently, building on each tiny transcendent moment until we reach a tipping point. And then the breakthrough happens. Once you begin to pay attention to the interplay of your physical, emotional, and spiritual health and then set an intention to change, change will come. Incrementally and, ultimately, with breathtaking clarity. I guarantee it.
How to Use This Book
I like to use a cross-training metaphor when it comes to working on wellness. Just as we would work simultaneously on our strength, endurance, flexibility, and gross motor skills in order to become better athletes, throughout this book we will take a cross-training approach to health and wellness, using tools such as self-examination, exercise, cleaning up your diet, spiritual inner work, journaling, and, yes, having fun (!) to address whatever might be bothering you physically, emotionally, or spiritually. This only makes sense, doesn't it? If the issues that affect how we feel are multidimensional, their resolution must be, too.
Whether you are feeling sluggish or disconnected or are coping with a serious chronic illness, you will find a mix of practices and ideas here, in the interplay of which you will experience your wellness breakthroughs. The tools are effective on their own, but two or more used together will make the whole process more effective, more rapid, and more fun. Also, if you mix things up you won't get bored or overwhelmed.
You will also discover how each tool supports the other realms. The better you feel physically, for example, the more fun you will want to have; having more fun, you will naturally be inclined to look for ways to share your joy. You will also experience a broader view of yourself and the world around you.
I once heard Ken Wilber, the highly acclaimed transpersonal philosopher, describe a study in which one group of people learned to meditate under the tutelage of a monk. Their focus was singular and intense as the monk coached them and guided them to learn a certain method. The other group of meditation students, also overseen by the monk, simultaneously undertook a weight-lifting program. These students divided their time between learning to improve both skills. Guess who progressed more in their meditation practice? Not the students who stayed singularly focused; they learned and progressed, but not nearly as much as the students who spread their energy between the two endeavors. Wilber explains that by engaging your multiple intelligences (whether musical, mathematical, intuitive, or as yet undefined) you light up different areas of the brain, creating more space for a broader breakthrough. By approaching your wellness goals in a multipronged way, you will become more proficient all around. Remember, we are made up of multiple moving parts; we vary in levels of spiritual aptitude as well as emotional and intellectual astuteness. We also have physical abilities that range from poor to excellent. Just observe where you think you could improve, and choose the tool or practice that will help you get there.
I encourage you to read through each chapter and try a few ideas that you think would make the most difference. Don't try tackling all of them at once; rather, gain some mastery of one or two until you feel comfortable, and then add another into the mix. By building your toolbox slowly and organically, you construct a launch pad from upon which this whole cross-training approach can take wing. As you embark on a journey toward quantum wellness, you can count on two things:
1. As you increase your knowledge of what it is to be well,
everything that is "not well" will reveal itself. You will be more
readily able to identify that which needs your attention.
2. You will find within you the ability to bring light to all those places that are wounded or unenlightened so that you can experience magnificent multidimensional wellness. You see, the path of wellness is a path of transcendence. You will constantly be brought to the walls that keep you stuck and you will be challenged to overcome them. You will become more attuned to all the wonder and grace at work in the world today—the miraculous cures, the everyday heroes who have stepped out of their comfort zone and made a difference, the stories of human kindness that would melt any heart. As you undertake to become more and more well, you will find yourself resonating more with that extraordinary energy. In fact, you will, through your own magnetic, amped-up vitality, draw to you events, meetings, and circumstances that you might never have imagined possible.
It is said that as you rise, the world rises to greet you. As you strive toward greater levels of wellness, you will discover that you are not working alone or in a void; you are part of a larger whole that is also leaning forward into life. You will intuit what is right while at the same time being guided toward the next steps. You will be carried along even as you push yourself toward greater and greater levels of happiness and health.
Each of us has a part in this process. We are all meant to become free, whole, and healed. A few steps along the wellness continuum and you will no longer be at a loss for words when someone asks you, "How are you today?"
Please join me as we explore the simple changes and small steps that will lead you to quantum wellness.