“Pick up the stupid thing!” he ordered aggressively, and in that moment time stopped.

Let’s rewind. It’s a hot, sticky, and humid summer day in Canada. I’m at my parent’s home helping them finish up their renovations. Against my advice, my parents decided to renovate their second floor and paint the entire house during Mercury Retrograde. Needless to say, the project took way longer than needed and there were many hiccups and delays along the way. My parents have been out of their home for over a month, the A/C isn’t working, and on this particular day, everyone is cranky and tempers are flaring.

I’m helping my father change hinges on a door and he just spoke to me in a way that would normally result in me burning down whatever building I’m in. And now here we are—in that moment when time stopped, I could sense a tightness in my chest that triggered a slow, deep inhale. My life suddenly became like Gwyneth Paltrow’s in Sliding Doors and I could see two possible outcomes: I could a) react as I often would (which is get defensive, make a smart-ass remark, or both) or b) I could do something different.

If I chose the first option it would end as it often would: a ridiculous battle of who’s the boss, us having an attitude with one another for the rest of the day (and let’s be real, our lives), me finishing the project and then doing everything possible to avoid another situation like this (read: never help with family renovations again). I had no idea what the “do something different” option would look like, but I knew it had to be better than the alternative.

I decided to take a breath and simply do what he had asked me to do (pick up the thing) and continued with our task at hand. With the moment still fresh in my mind and “the stupid thing” now off the floor, my mouth opened and words started to come out, but I had no idea from where. “Y’know, Dad—I’m really happy to be here and I’m having fun learning something new. Please don’t speak to me like that.” He looked at me, didn’t say anything (although I sensed he understood) and we carried on. Eventually, we finished our task and called it a day.

The next day I had a break between clients and I returned to help some more. What’s amazing is our interaction was different. We spoke to each other with respect. We were even happier to be doing what we were doing, even though it was still hot as hell, the A/C still wasn’t working, and we were nowhere near completion of renovations.

So what happened?

In all honesty, it’s my daily spiritual practice. I’ve had a daily practice for years and I’ve noticed a huge difference in how I interact with the world. I’m less tolerant of poor behaviour from others, but up until this point, all my spiritual practice went out the window whenever family was involved. In that instant, though, it was different. I was different. And that’s when I knew it was working.

But how does a daily spiritual practice change us? One component of my practice is meditation and one of the main objectives of meditation is to simply observe. In yogic terms, we become the witness. In our moments of stillness, we practice staying present. We do this by observing our breath and how we’re feeling both physically and emotionally. This is an attitudinal workout … a work-in if you will. This is what changes our behaviour and this is why I strongly encourage all my clients to engage in a meditative practice.

Meditation is a practice of utilizing two attitudinal muscles: mindfulness and awareness. Mindfulness is when we are aware of what’s happening in the present moment. Awareness is what brings us into the present moment. The most effective meditation technique is one where you maintain focus on one point to strengthen your mindfulness and awareness muscles.

Want to give your attitudinal musculature a work-in? Experience 40 Days of Stillness with me! It’s simple; all you have to do is stop, sit, and breathe—the rest comes with practice.