Part 3: Gain Understanding

Welcome to the 4 Part blog series "Meditation for Transformation" where I'll teach you my 4 step process to take your meditation practice beyond simple relaxation (and use it to get unstuck in any aspect of your life and create deep, lasting change). 

If you follow these 4 steps (and do the 4 types of meditation), you'll have a simple process and the tools to calm your mind, uncover why you're feeling stuck in repetitive patterns, heal those patterns, and actively create the life circumstances you desire.

If you missed them, you can get caught up with Part 1: Calm Your Mind and Emotions or Part 2: Befriend Your Obstacles.

Now let's dive into Part 3 (or step 3) on the Meditation for Transformation journey!

Step 3: Gain Understanding

So to quickly recap, in Part 1 you learned how to calm your mind and emotions, because the insight, clarity, or good decisions necessary for change don't happen from a mentally or emotionally chaotic state. Part 2 taught you how to sit with your obstacles and discomfort (rather than running away from them), because your discomfort holds vital clues as to how to get unstuck and ultimately change your life for good.

Knowledge is Power.

There's the saying that knowledge is power, and that's exactly what this next step in the "Meditation for Transformation" process is all about. Now that you've cultivated the capacity to be with your painful emotions or sensations, you can finally gain knowledge and start understanding what caused them to arise in the first place.

And once you understand the roots of your pain, stuckness, and discontent, you have the power to transform it!

This step of "Gain Understanding" unfolds in two stages.

  1. You take responsibility for your own suffering
  2. You begin to understand your role and the causes of your suffering (pain, discontent, stuckness)

Taking Responsibility For Your own Suffering

Before you can understand what's causing your pain and discontent, you must take responsibility (versus feeling victimized) for the painful things you're experiencing. We often feel like our suffering and crappy circumstances are caused by others or a stroke of bad luck. But the truth is, in most cases we've played a hand at creating them. I absolutely love how Chiara Mazzucco of articulates this.

Each metal bar, carefully built to enclose us in these little cages we create, is placed there by us...This world we create in our own minds, made of limitations and excuses. We place blame on others and on the circumstances we’re in, when really, we’re still the ones responsible for its creation.
— Chiara Mazzucco @


This isn't about turning the blame from universe or others onto ourselves. But rather, it's about taking back POWER in our lives.  

You see, once you take responsibility for your role in creating your own undesired life circumstances and suffering, you gain the power to uncreate those crappy circumstances, and recreate them however you'd like!


MANTRA >> I release being a powerless victim to others and my circumstances, and I take full responsibility for my own suffering. And with that, I take back my power to create the life and circumstances I choose. 

Understanding Your Role and the Causes of Your Suffering

Ok so you've taken responsibility for your own life and suffering. Now it's time to understand your role and the roots of your suffering. What have you been doing (or neglecting) that has led to your feelings of stuckness or unhappiness? What thoughts have you been thinking? What actions have you been taking (or not taking)? What beliefs are hidden in your subconscious mind? These are all things that can keep you stuck if they aren't aligned with your true-self or the circumstances you want to create in your life.

We [must] look deeply into the nature of our suffering to see what kinds of nutriments we have been feeding it. How have we lived in the last few years...months...that have contributed to our suffering?
— Thich Nhat Hanh

And understanding is best achieved through REFLECTION PRACTICES

Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.
— Margaret J. Wheatley

Here are 4 powerful (yet simple) reflection practices you can start doing right now to gain understanding into why you're feeling stuck or unhappy in love, work, or some other aspect of your life. 

1. Self-Inquiry Meditation

Do a few minutes of the concentration breathing practice you learned in Part 1 to focus and calm your mind. Then simply ask yourself,

  • "How have I created my own suffering and kept myself stuck today (this week, etc)?" 
  • "What actions, thoughts, or beliefs am I repeating that are unaligned with my true-self and my ideal circumstances? 
  • Or if you want clarity around a specific painful or stuck situation, "How am I creating my own suffering and keeping myself stuck feeling jealous and emotionally reactive in my relationship?" (for example).

Sit with these questions, and see what insights come up. Don't underestimate the power of simply taking time to ask yourself some good questions and listening openly for the answers.

And since deeply understanding the causes of your unhappiness and struggles tends to happen over time, it's very helpful to write down the insights you get from your reflection practice, so you can watch how your clarity unfolds in layers.

2. Stream of Consciousness Journaling

Grab a journal, focus and quiet your mind, and just write. Don't sensor or judge what comes out. Simply write anything that wants to be expressed. This is a very simple and powerful practice that can feel quite difficult when starting out, because of our tendency to overcomplicate things. But the more you can just surrender into and trust the simple process and power of writing in this way, the more insight that will bubble up from it.

In her famous book, The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron talks about a writing process she's coined "morning pages" where you free-write three full notebook pages daily. She too swears by the power of simply taking time daily to write from your stream of consciousness. Whether you just grab your journal and write until you feel complete, set a timer and write until it goes off, or write a set number of pages daily, you'll get some great clarity from this writing process. 

3. Conscious Conversations

If you sit with a friend and speak openly, determined to discover the roots of your suffering, eventually you will see them clearly. But if you keep your suffering to yourself, it might grow bigger every day.
— Thich Nhat Hanh

Another powerful tool to cultivating deep understanding of issues or stuck areas in your life is through talking it out with a friend or mentor. I have a few friends I can successfully talk through my struggles with. Here's the key to successful conscious conversations.

  • You're clear with yourself and them that you want to understand the roots of your issue, not wallow in it (sometimes venting is helpful too, but be clear that's what you're doing and eventually shift to seeking solutions).
  • Make sure you have these chats with friends that are also on a spiritual path, so they can help add wisdom and insight- or at least hold the space for it. Some friends tend to feed into the drama rather than help hold space for answers- they may not be the best candidates for these conversations. 

TAKE ACTION >> Make a list of friends who you can reach out to for these conversations. It's ok if it's just 1 or 2 people.

If you can't think of anyone, it may be time to cultivate more spiritual community in your life. A good place to start is by finding a local place that has spiritual or wellness type classes. You can try a local yoga or meditation studio, or even a new-age type shop. You may also consider a women's circle. I've been part of online and live ones, and have met some amazing spiritual sisters that way! My Facebook community is the perfect place to start to reach out to and connect with me and others on a spiritual path. 

4. Using Oracles 

And lastly, my absolute favorite way to gain understanding and clarity when I'm feeling totally stuck in victim mode, or if I can't uncover the roots of a painful pattern or obstacle, is through playing with an oracle system. You may have heard of tarot cards, angel cards (or another oracle card deck), or the I Ching. 

Using oracles is sort of a clarity hack when you're so blocked that the other reflection practices aren't helping you gain understanding.

I was introduced to a powerful oracle system called the "I Ching" many years ago and loved it so much I now do private I Ching Clarity Sessions. Tarot and the I Ching are very powerful systems but can have a bit of a learning curve when using them yourself for the first time. But you can easily use the power of oracles on your own, right now, by using a simple oracle card deck or phone app!

TAKE ACTION >> Begin to gain insight and understanding into an obstacle or painful pattern you uncovered during your mindfulness practice from Part 2. Try one (or all) of the reflection practices above to discover the thoughts, beliefs, or actions that are keeping you stuck.

Since understanding is the gateway to transformation, once you start to gain some clarity here, you're well on your way to shifting those stuck patterns and circumstances. And in Part 4, you'll learn a powerful meditation technique and process to take these insights (you've gotten through reflection) and use them to finally start transforming your life! 

If you haven't already, be sure to sign up below so you don't miss the final Part of this training series.