Saturday thoughts: Awareness

Saturday, 17 May 2014

I've mentioned the concept of awareness on here a couple of times now but I've never really gone into any depth about it, but it's such an important part of my life that I thought it deserved an post all of its own.

I first came across the concept just over a year ago. I'd seen it mentioned on social media platforms such as Instagram and Tumblr, but it was only when a couple of guys from my local Buddhist centre came to college and ran meditation sessions that my interest in the concept really sparked. During the meditation session I attended, we practiced two different exercises. The first was a body scan, which involved closing your eyes, letting your breath flow naturally and directing your attention to one area of your body at a time. In this instance we started with our feet, but you can start anywhere you like; your head, your stomach, your hands. The idea is to focus solely on how that part of your body feels - is it warm? cold? tingling? can you feel the floor beneath your feet? your clothes against your skin? Alongside this awareness of your physical sensations, the key to this practice is not to judge or try to change what you feel. If you do, you're not being fully present as your mind has drifted away from what's happening here and now to how you think or feel about it. This awareness and acceptance brings your attention back to the present moment, releasing any worries about the past or future. This doesn't necessarily have to be practiced sitting or laying down with your eyes closed in meditation however. Although this might be a good place to start, without any distractions, awareness can be practiced every moment of your life, whether you're driving to work, making a cup of tea, reading a book, watching TV, or picking up your weekly shopping - you can always bring your focus back to here and now. 

I'd be lying if I said it was easy, at first. When you first start practicing awareness, even in meditation, chances are your mind will wander and next thing you know you're thinking about the errands you need to run by the end of the week or the chat you had with the barista in the coffee shop yesterday. This is perfectly okay. Even after practising awareness for a long time, this wandering of the mind can still happen, particularly during stressful times. If and when this happens, all you have to do is gently bring your attention back. One of the easiest ways to do this is by using your breath - it's always going to be there, and its constant in and out flow gives you something to focus on. Alternatively, you can do a body scan, zoning in on different parts of your body or even your whole body at once, feeling the air on your skin, your hair tickling your neck, your feet on the ground. 
Eventually, as you practice, this act of guiding your focus back becomes easier. In the mean time, it's important to remember not to get frustrated at yourself, as this only takes your attention away from the present moment and you get wrapped up in your frustration. If this wandering makes you feel like you're failing at being present and aware, remember that even this realisation that your mind has wandered is awareness in itself - by noticing it, you are stepping outside of your thoughts and becoming aware of what is happening inside your body. 

Once you've started to incorporate awareness and presence into your daily life, you'll start to notice changes. You'll feel more alert, more in tune with your body and your surroundings. You'll notice more things about the world around you - the birdsong, the colour of the flowers you walk past, the conversations of strangers. Since your attention is on what's around you at each moment, you'll find more opportunities present themselves to you - think of it this way: if your focus is on the meeting you have this weekend and you're rushing around, going through the motions of your daily life without really giving any thought to your surroundings, you could walk straight past and poster for an upcoming gig your favourite singer is doing in your local area, or an advert for an opening the job you've wanted for some time, or a sale in your favourite shop. However, if you're being aware and giving attention to what's happening around you rather than giving all of your attention to that meeting, which hasn't even happened yet, you'll be much more likely to notice that poster or that ad or that sale.

Awareness is such a huge topic and there's so much I could say about it, but this post is already pretty lengthy so I'm going to have to round it off here, but if you'd be interested in reading more posts about it then feel free to comment below and let me know! I'm by no means an expert, but it's something that's really important in my life so I'd love to share more about it on here.

Do any of you practice awareness/mindfulness or have anything to say about it?


No comments :

Post a Comment