In my experience, awareness is the key, the door and the whole bloody porch of personal growth and evolution. It’s where the engagement really starts and the magic begins to happen. Developing awareness will literally change your life.
But what is it?
Awareness is the ability to separate the Self-being, from the self-doing (capitalisation very much intentional). It is the creation of space between the true ‘I’ and the thoughts, the conditioned mind and the ego. Awareness is vast and limitless. It is the true You.
Ok, ok but what’s all this Self, self, ‘I’ talk?
The easiest way to approach this idea is that there is you in your most natural, beautiful, open state of natural being – the You that is universally linked and a being of total compassion and love. That’s your natural state, baby.
But we live in a world that impresses on us a second self; a mask made of conditioning and norms and expectations and ego and trauma. This learned behaviour is so ingrained that we often can’t see beyond it because it is constantly reinforced by the external world.
Awareness is a tool to give you back your space between the Self and that ball of suffering, which is what Buddhism calls an unawakened life.
These are complex topics and you can dive down the rabbit hole on any one of them. But you understand those explanations, right? Of course you do! Your Self is crying out for you to rediscover your true nature. It’s willing you on!
Ok, ok so awareness is great but … like …. how?
Awareness is not a weekend practice. It takes time, I’m not going to lie to you. But the more you do, the easier it gets. My advice, take each step below and onboard it for a one-to-three weeks (21 days makes a habit!). Then add more. These are big shifts we are asking ourselves to make. Drop the expectation and enjoy the wild fun that is the journey.
Begin with compassion
This is my number one tip for ANY mindfulness, meditation or, well, life efforts. We are taught to treat ourselves and eachother with the opposite of compassion. That love is something that should be reserved for those who prove themselves. You think that mentality doesn’t impact how you love yourself? Where do we think the ego gets its power from? The ‘I’m not worthy’ narrative. The foundation of a life based on fear.
There’s no end to this practice, nor timeline. It’s not linear. You can’t be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ at it. You ARE it already. So there is no benefit or need here for frustration or anger or expectation. When you find the mind going those places or entering into those dialogs, don’t panic! Have a little laugh at the mind that was always allowed to run the show. Redivert it and send it back on a path of self-compassion, of self-love.
‘I fully and completely accept and love myself’
Get back to the now
We live in the past or the future 99% of the time. Which is ridiculous seeing as the now, like right this minute, is all there ever is. The past is gone the future never arrives. Two of my gurus Baba Ram Das and Oasis said it best – be here now.
There are so many techniques to get to the present, find one that works for you and use it. We don’t need ALL the tools. We need the ones that are useful to us.
- Describe the present: what’s happening right this second? For me, it would be something like ‘woman sitting at desk, typing’. That’s it. That’s the entirety of what’s happening with me, now. Everything else is a creation of the mind. *I absolutely love this tool!*
- Feel the vibes: rest one, or both, palms facing upwards on the knees or lap. Close your eyes. Now feel the hand. Without moving, can you sense every line and crease and curve? If you couldn’t shift it, how could you know the hand was still there? Can you feel the air and the energy of the space around you? How does it feel?
- Breathe: there is nothing in this world that will do for you what three conscious breaths can do. For those three inhales and exhales all your attention is on them. You are concentrating. How does the air feel coming in? Where does it flow. Is it deep or shallow (but we’re not changing or controlling), what does it feel like at the peak – that vast expanse in the pause?
Sit with your shadows
Here’s where things get really interesting. In the above to steps you’ll be confronted with a lot of inner dialogue from the conditioned mind and the ego. They don’t like change. When you’re feeling ready or drawn to, set one to the back of your mind after you become aware of it. You’ll come back to it later, when you have free time.
This could be snap judgements or trains of thought (Brené Brown calls this the SFD – shitty first draught) that arise after an act. It could be the constant insistance that this whole practice is stupid and why are you even wasting your time. It could be your tendency to wilt in front of an authority figure. We all have our own personal stuff and this practice will SERVE you yours!
So you’ve picked your shadow. We’re not going to get into it in the moment because it’s really hard not to get caught up in it. Later, when you have time, close the door and sit down. Bring yourself back to the moment. Replay it and really feel how you felt. What happened just before. What triggered your reaction? What went on in your mind in the split second before you reacted?
Got it? Ok.
What’s the root of that belief/thought/idea? Because this was not all about this one incident. These shadows have been at play for years. This pattern is not new, you’re just aware of it now! So sit with it, always with compassion. Get to know it. Bring some light into its shadowy corner.
Shadows and the ego and the conditioned mind aren’t bad. They’re natural defence tactics put in place by the mind. They’re learned behaviour that can be passed across lifetimes and generations – think the collective pain carried by Irish women for their treatment since, well, forever. It’s the repression and the idea that they’re ‘bad’ or ‘evil’ that take them to a much darker place.
Because, shadows think they’re helping you have a smooth life – don’t get in trouble because when you were small this was the consequence, don’t make a mistake because people will think you’re stupid, don’t embrace your sexuality because you’ll be called a whore. But we’re movin’ on up baby. We don’t need those protective efforts anymore. It’s ok to bring light into the shadow. It’s ok to be 100% you.
I’ll say it again, these are not easy practices. Don’t be fooled by their simplicity. These are life-changing. Be patient with yourself. Practice as often as you remember to – and setting an alarm a couple of times a day is not a bad idea until these tools become ingrained. Release what you think that ‘outcome’ of all this will be. Be here now and enjoy the present. It’s gorgeous.