I decided to try an exercise suggested by Teal Swan in one of her “AskTeal” episodes on YouTube. In her video called “Awareness Exercise” she challenges her viewers to sit in a public place and people-watch while holding two different intentions at two distinct ten-minute intervals. The purpose being that one would gain a better understanding of the concept of awareness by observing themselves and others while being in a state of positive and negative regard to the passersby. The procedure for the exercise is as follows:
- For the first ten minutes, judge everyone that goes by (silently) using the structured phrase “I don’t like _____ about you.”
- For the second ten minutes, observe positives things in everyone that walks by, using the phrase “I love _____ about you.”
- During each of the ten-minute session, think about the following three items:
- “Notice how you feel in your body.”
- “How do you feel about yourself and this world?”
- “How do people react to you?”
Teal’s episode ends in a cliffhanger because she does not tell her viewers what the expected results of this exercise will be. She says that “doing the full 10 minutes is what’s necessary to understand the full impact of this exercise.”
So, I decided to try this “awareness exercise” for myself and tell you my experience. Here it goes!
After work, I drove to my local mall called the McKinley Mall (in Blasdell, NY). I went straight to the center of the mall and sat in the public seating area. I figured this center-point would have the most traffic and thus would maximize the amount of people I could observer for this exercise. Once I was positioned, I pulled out my iPhone and set the timer for 10 minutes.
These first ten minutes were rough! I developed an upset stomach while “judging” people. Up until that day, I had been doing lot of positive aspects journaling and so I found it difficult to find negativity in people as they walked by. I had to force myself to complete this session.
“I don’t like the color of those shoes.”
“I don’t like the way you walk”
“I don’t like the way you combine your outfit. Really, brown and black?”
“I don’t like your attitude.”
Ugh, that was awful! During these first ten minutes I adopted more of a closed body language. My left leg was crossed over by right and my arms were crossed too. Although I was aware of this closed posture, it was the only way I felt comfortable. I tried to open up but it felt wrong to do so. I honestly wanted the experience to end. It felt as though this world became some kind of nursing home in which everyone was terminally ill- it was a hopeless state of mind to be in. People would glance at me and quickly glance away, many times adjusting themselves as though they were insecure. I found it difficult to stare at them too. I was anxiously awaiting for the next ten minutes to start!
Finally that miserable ten minutes ended and I restarted the timer on my phone. Surprisingly, I started to move around in my seat looking for people to compliment in my head. I kind of wanted to undo the negativity that I was feeling, including that stomach ache I developed in the first ten minute session.
“I love your shoes”
“I love how you, the elderly couple, look in love as you walk around holding hands.”
“I love that you’re walking around,” I said about a fairly large lady in pink who was walking with a cane. I remember thinking “at least you’re walking around. Get it!”
I was more motivated to “scout” people out. I was moving about in my seat and was able to feel myself comfortable with my legs and arms uncrossed. Oddly enough, it wasn’t until about minute eight of this “positive judging” that the stomach ache induced by the first session went away.
Overall, people would glance over and catch me gently smiling in their direction. Occasionally I would get a nod of approval. The world did seem like a nicer place during this exercise.
I was surprised at what happened right as the ten minute alarm went off on my phone. The lady in pink walking with the cane began walking in my direction. I was smiling at her. This must have been a welcoming gesture because she decided to sit right in front of me. I could tell she was a little uncomfortable from over exertion. So, with a smile, I said “Time for a little break, huh?”
She looked up and said “Yeah, I would never have know in a million years that I would end up like this.”
“It’s the knees, right?”
She replied with a smile “Yeah, I’ve had both of them replaced! How did you know?”
I told her that I, myself, have stage four osteoarthritis in both knees so I recognized the distressed walk. “My only options are shots and physical therapy for now” I told her. “Doc tells me I’m too young for knee replacements.”
Then, out of nowhere, I heard my name! “Ramses, is that you?”
A friend from my college town was there with her husband. She approached me where I sat with the lady in pink. I stood up and in a moment I was being embraced by my friend’s warm hug.
“It’s so nice to see you! You look great!” she said.
We took a moment to catch up. We reminisced about some of our mutual friends and laughed a little and then gently parted ways. It was at that moment that I realized the lady in pink was gone. “I wonder if she’s okay?” I thought.
I backtracked through the mall to exit by the lot where my car was parked. Right as I was getting to my exit, I saw the lady in pink strutting along with her cane by a shoe store. She seemed merry. She was fine. I chuckled and remember thinking “Get it, girl! Get it!” with a huge smile on my face.