Making it emotional: how to enact change


“Imagine—what if you had access to a simple yes-or-no answer to any question you wished to ask? A demonstrably true answer. Any question . . . think about it.” – Sir David R. Hawkins, MP, PhD, “Power vs. Force”.

To make a change in our lives permanent, the change needs to be accompanied by an emotional anchor. Something that knocks us out of our programmed paradigm, allowing us to imprint the desired habit at a deeper level. As I have written before, I accept these concepts intellectually, but until I am ready to integrate them deeper (emotionally), they are just words. I read. I nod. I go about my business.

I was listening to an interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson this morning on the way to work. He was talking about a friend of his who was in the process of losing weight and every time he lost 15 pounds, he would mount a bowling ball to the wall (they weigh about 15 lbs). This image profoundly struck me. It hit me…emotionally. It’s quite easy to see that if a person trying to lose weight saw those heavy, awkward, bowling balls on a wall, each one symbolizing a weight he/she is no longer carrying, the accompanied emotion would be overwhelming. “I was carrying all of those bowling balls with me every day!”.

In Dr. Joe Dispenza’s book “You Are the Placebo”, he says:

“…if you want to change a belief or perception, you have to first change your state of being. And changing your state of being means changing your energy, because in order for you to affect matter, you have to become more energy and less matter, more wave and less particle. That requires you to combine a clear intention and an elevated emotion—those are the two ingredients.”

We all know how to create intentions, which is why the gym is packed the first few weeks of the new year. So what are some of the ways we can create this so called “elevated emotion”? I mean, when I was overweight I was depressed. That was an emotion. Isn’t that enough?


Mounting bowling balls is one way to provoke an emotion. And there are a multitude of smartphone apps and websites that count pretty much anything you want, from calories (Training Peaks) to the number of days you’ve spent meditating (Headspace). You can even get incredibly “social” with these tools and get kudos, pings and trophy emojis to let you know how good you are doing (or not doing). But somehow these aren’t enough. Why? I think that is has to do with the fact that YOU aren’t creating this emotion. You have outsourced it to a developer. To make the change, you are going to have to do a little more work to find that singular, personal experience that makes you tick.

And this is not strictly related to losing weight. For me, the clear intention is meditation. I keep telling myself that I need to meditate, but I keep falling down (not literally). How lazy do you have to be to not sit quiet for 10 minutes and just breathe? Ok, that’s negative self speak, so I’ll move in another direction. 🙂 

“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”— Robert Frost

What do I need to do to make meditation (or whatever) emotional? And what the hell is “emotion” anyway?! A quick Google search serves up over 195 million results, all subtly different. That’s quite a lot to sift through, so I’ll take the first hit: “An emotion is a complex psychological state that involves three distinct components: a subjective experience, a physiological response, and a behavioral or expressive response” (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2007). This is something we can work with! Let’s take it apart, applying it to what we will simply call, “the intention”.

So here we go. To affect X outcome (e.g. my weight, mind, relationship, etc.), I want to implement “the intention” (e.g. exercise, meditation, communication, etc.). 

Getting moody:

  • Subjective Experience: How it applies to me (as an individual). If you don’t know, consider what makes you the happiest or saddest. Be a scientist of your lows.
  • Physiological Response: Increased heart rate. Tingling fingers. Butterflies in the stomach.
  • Behavioral/Expressive Response: A smile. A frown. Pep in your step. Do you stop and take a deep breath when this idea hits you?

Using our bowling ball example, perhaps the guy trying to lose weight was a bowler. For someone else, let’s say a carpenter, it could be bricks. It can be anything personal. This invokes the Subjective experience (in you), creating the Physiological response (for the guy, he knew how much those bowling balls weighed), followed by Behavioral (he is definitely lighter in the step now, potentially even lowering his heart rate).

Hook. Line. Sinker.

It’s not only important to have the totem (i.e. the bowling balls) it also needs to be celebrated and admired, giving the ego a stake in the game. Standing in front of them and allowing yourself to “feel” the emotion. Visualizing how you feel as you practice your intention. Imagining how you will feel as you continue your life walking along this pathway.

I purposefully won’t use the word “goal” here, because I personally don’t believe in them. The “goal” is the “practice” and not the “thing”. Alan Watts describes it rather elegantly:

“…we, being a very compulsive and purposive culture, are busy getting everywhere faster and faster until we eliminate the distance between places…what happens as a result of that is the two ends of your journey became the same place. You eliminate the distance, you eliminate the journey. The fun of the journey is travel, not to obliterate travel. So then, in music, one doesn’t make the end of a composition the point of the composition. If so, the best conductors would be those who played fastest and there would be composers who only wrote finales. People would go to a concert just to hear one crackling chord because that’s the end!”

“It’s the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top.” – Robert M. Pirsig

Resistance will most certainly arise as we work towards implementing our intention. When you notice the resistance, know that you are going in the right direction. Things that are easy don’t usually give us trouble, which is why we don’t have to work at them. Sure this is an obvious statement, but as Alan mentioned above, we want things quick, easy (outsourced). Things that are easy (and free) are not given value. And if they don’t come fast enough (results driven), we give up. I could ask myself: “Shouldn’t meditation be easy? It’s just sitting and breathing. Maybe meditation isn’t right for me”. Boo hoo! However, there is a deeper knowing that meditation is an intention that is on my path to finding the deeper me. Having this knowledge, I embark on a journey, armed with very little.

Going forward, my plan to increase my meditation practice, using the bowling balls as a catalyst, is using these marbles I have had in the drawer for years (literally, years). I’m going to find a clear, glass jar and place one marble in the jar each day I meditate. I’ll keep it on my chest of drawers so I can see it every morning, as the sun shines through our bedroom window onto the jar. Funny thing: I can already FEEL it. I can feel the feeling of dropping a marble in there. The round, hard glass in my hand. Hearing it tink-a-clink around. Seeing the bright, colorful glass fall into place at the bottom. Knowing that each marble represents breath. Life. Journey.

Thanks for listening.




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