Self-Awareness

TL;DR

We must be aware of ourselves before we can perform any self-improvement.

Awareness isn’t particularly easy because we’re in constant conflict with the world around us, and self-reflection is lonely.

Meditation is a simple, necessary mechanism to slow down our thoughts:

  1. Sit somewhere comfortable.
  2. Let your perceptions come naturally.
  3. Feel your present physical state.
  4. Become aware of the world around you.
  5. Learn to observe thoughts that arise before they occur.
  6. Make a habit of meditation everywhere.

Once you’re familiar with meditation, try advanced reflection by focusing on various perspectives and thoughts.

However, meditation only helps find problems and typically doesn’t give any solutions.

Why bother with awareness?

The basis of all understanding starts with knowing yourself.

  • Awareness is the first step to all conscious change.
  • Without self-awareness, our subconscious habits automatically run our lives.

When we’re unaware, we often respond wrongly.

  • If we don’t know what causes things, we’ll work to fix something that might not be broken.
  • Sometimes, in our fear, we’ll “fix” what wasn’t broken, and destroy even more.
  • And, when we’re unaware of those consequences, we won’t see what we destroy!

We can’t live healthy lives if our subconscious always drives us.

  • Constant fear of loss leads to more stress.
  • We experience less connection with others and trouble experiencing love.
  • A false sense of crisis can lead to neglected needs.
  • We’ll fixate on something and ignore important details around it.

Awareness isn’t easy

We all have inner conversations with ourselves called “thoughts”.

  • While they’re always logical, they’re not always reasonable.

We’re in constant conflict.

Gaining self-awareness can be lonely.


Meditation

Meditation is simply tracking the current state of your mind:
  • It’s a focused, moment-by-moment perspective, and isn’t technically spiritual or transcendental.
  • To grab hold of it, we must slow down our thoughts and clear out mental obstructions.

Meditation is low-effort and easy enough to do almost anywhere:
  • Relax and concentrate on breathing (or simply take a deep sigh for a few seconds).
  • Repeat a phrase over and over.
  • Pray a mantra repeatedly or slowly process something you’re reading.
  • Fixate on familiar or calming music.
  • Go for a walk or work out.
  • Deeply focus on a routine task.

The ability to meditate for a long time is rare, and things like technology and the fear of death make meditation harder in modern society.

Why meditate?

Meditation is critical for living well:

Meditation is necessary to find inner problems:
  • Simply slowing down gives us more control over our minds.
  • As little as 15 minutes of meditation or prayer a day has been scientifically proven to calm our minds.
  • Often, our feelings are driven by beliefs built on information we’re not aware has changed.
  • Many of our habitual thoughts are destructive, harmful, or useless.
  • We frequently have addictions or triggers controlling us without our knowledge.

Meditation enhances the power of silence:
  • Silence allows us to unwind and decompress from the constant information we tend to receive.
  • We tend to fill the silence with empty noise.
  • By permitting silence, we increase our focus.

How to meditate

A. Find somewhere comfortable:
  • Your three toughest challenges will be pain, muscle tension, and falling asleep.
    • Everything in your environment should help you stay alert and comfortable.
  • Wear loose and soft clothes.
  • Sit upright on a chair or thick cushion with your back straight.
  • Set your legs comfortably on a blanket:
    • Native American style — right foot tucked under the left knee, left foot tucked under the right knee.
    • Burmese style — both legs crossed, the tops of both feet flat on the floor from knee to foot.
    • Half lotus — both knees touch the floor, with one leg and calf flat along the calf of the other leg.
    • Full lotus — both knees touch the floor, with both feet flush against the opposite thighs.
  • Rest your hands on top of each other, palms turned upward, with each wrist pressed against the thigh.
  • If you use a chair, don’t lean against its back, and keep your feet uncrossed and flat on the floor.
  • If you need it, play white noise or brown noise.

B. Let your perceptions flow naturally:
  • Become a passive observer of yourself.
  • Your thoughts will flow in and out of your consciousness.
  • Don’t do anything with those thoughts.
    • Avoid using the words “good” or “bad” to describe those thoughts, and simply describe that they “are”.
  • Don’t diminish the thoughts:
    • Don’t block feelings as they inevitably arise.
    • Sometimes we push thoughts away as if they were a separate part of us, but they’re not.
  • Don’t intensify the experience:
    • Avoid shifting focus onto the feeling to get through it faster.
    • We sometimes hold on to feelings closely because we believe they’re necessary to give us context.
  • Don’t act on any feelings.
    • You’ll feel a natural sense of urgency, but disregard the impulse to do something.
  • Maintain your focus.
    • If you start feeling frantic, concentrate on the present moment.
    • If you start getting distracted, bring yourself back to focus.

C. Feel your present physical state:
  • Get into a comfortable position and relax your body, one body part at a time.
  • Close your eyes to drown out most of the extra information you’re getting.
  • Breathe slowly and “release” the stress.
  • Let gravity act on you naturally.
  • Focus on the many small elements of breathing until you’ve fully recognized and accepted them.
  • Slow your breathing to increase oxygenation and relaxation.
    1. Inhale for 4 seconds.
    2. Hold your lungs full for 4 seconds.
    3. Exhale for 4 seconds.
    4. Hold your lungs empty for 4 seconds.
  • After breathing, focus on something else as it flows into perspective.
    • Look at the world around you, but treat your view as simply one perspective instead of “reality”.
    • Slowly observe everything as a matter of experience or perspective, not as anything that “is” or “isn’t”.
  • Observe the thoughts as they slowly travel through your mind.
    • Don’t attach judgments or extra thoughts to them.
    • Look at each thought like an object you’re slowly and carefully examining.
  • Direct your thoughts to your present physical state.
    • Become aware of yourself and your thoughts.
    • Observe the feelings and sensations in your face or head.
  • Start observing your emotions.
    • Recognize the feelings as chemical reactions that only exist in your mind.
    • Note the emotions as you recognize your feelings, and observe the feelings as they change in response.
    • Observe your body’s reactions to your emotions.
    • Pay attention to other, secondary feelings that happen at the same time as your first feeling.
    • Observe your body’s reactions to those secondary feelings.
    • Focus on other times you’ve felt different from the current moment and all the feelings connected to each moment.
  • Open up your eyes and watch the feelings and thoughts flood back into consciousness.
    • Stay mindful that it’s still all perspective and that all of it isn’t precisely “reality”.

D. Expand your sense of awareness to the world around you:
  • Visualize something familiar you can see around you, like a household object.
  • Start by observing how the mind created that visualization, but expand it to how it’s as real to us as everything in our imagination.
  • Relax that visualizing portion of the mind until the world is nothing but raw information.
  • Intentionally forget about the boundaries or rules of objects and focus only on the information.
  • Increase your awareness until it expands beyond what you see.
    • Observe other sensations, like sounds or smells, and incorporate them into your view.
    • Make consciousness a single experience.
  • Observe the conscious self and identify where “you” are in the center of that experience, and how much of that experience even exists.

E. Observe thoughts that arise before they occur:
  • We often treat our thoughts like we must be the “thinker” of those thoughts, but we can’t prove that.
  • Follow where ideas come from and where they go.
    • Investigate slowly how those thoughts attach to other feelings and sensations.
    • Carefully watch any memories you have that are tied to those experiences, without judgment.
  • Dwell on how certain you can be of various things, and how many things really aren’t that certain to us.
  • Accept your emotions and thoughts as not necessarily “you”.
    • Focus in on specific thoughts, like a familiar friend’s face or the particular smell of a plant.
  • Accept the constant flow of ideas as a part of your identity and self to the degree you choose it to be.

F. Make a habit of prolonged awareness:
  • Only improve yourself in that meditative state.
    • Any time you become anxious or stressed, realign yourself with meditation.
    • Make a routine to realign throughout your day.
    • Stay in this frame of mind when walking, driving, studying, socializing, or working.
  • When you feel anxious or uneasy, force yourself to stop and slow down.
  • Learn to disconnect each individual thought from the other sequential thoughts and actions that flow from them.

Over time, meditation becomes second nature and extends to everything else.

  • The time spent sitting alone was simply practice for the rest of your life.

Focused reflection

Reflect on the present:
  • Focus on “now”, dropping out everything about “then”, “could be”, and “will be”.
  • Learn to say to yourself, “I have a feeling of _____,” instead of “I am _____.”
    • Become willing to experience your feelings without judging them.
    • Radically accept all of your feelings as a unique part of your very useful body.
  • Pay close attention to pain and where it comes from.
    • Most mental disorders come from unpleasant things we’ve ignored.
  • Focus on what you’re grateful for.
  • Find aimless and idle thoughts you no longer need.
  • Practice brutal honesty in your thought life.
    • We often think we’re being rational, but we rarely are.
    • Direct your attention to weak points in your reasoning.

Reflect on the past:
  • Review stories and formerly favorite music later in your life to see how your perspective has changed.
  • Make a list of present and past habits, and try to find trends.
  • Make a long list of 20 “I was…” statements (to inspire creative thought about them).

Reflect on possibilities:
  • Start looking ahead at what may likely come next in the “chain” of your thoughts.
  • Hold a conversation with yourself from different points of view you hold or may want to hold.
  • Devote yourself toward prayer to the Being that maintains the present Unknown.
  • Closely consider when your expectations have matched or deviated from reality.

Reflect on the people around you:

Cycle and merge your perspectives:
  • Adopt multiple contrary opinions at once.
  • Look at yourself as a continual existence across time instead of as a present individual.
  • Consider your existence across the scope of your family history, instead of something that started with your birth and ends with your death.
  • Try to combine multiple views about reality at once:
    1. Negative views of the past (traumatized)
    2. Positive views of the past (nostalgic)
    3. Negative focus on the present (nihilistic)
    4. Positive focus on the present (hedonistic)
    5. Depressing views of the future (fatalistic)
    6. Transcendental views of the future (hopeful)
  • Observe the best perspective to adopt for the given situation.


Language

We understand the world through the words we use.

  • Our words are often insufficient because we explored a concept when we were much younger.
Learn to make comparisons for your feelings:
  • Describe your experiences and feelings with a story.
  • Create fictional stories with characters that represent your different feelings.
  • Use colors to describe the mood as you experience the different things you feel.

Write a journal:
  • Even if nobody reads it, writing forces you to clarify exactly what you’re thinking.
  • Venting in a journal articulates the experience and helps to differentiate fact from fiction.
  • It doesn’t have to make sense, follow a pattern, or capture your feelings.

Don’t overdo it

Awareness is only useful for detecting problems.

  • The solutions exist beyond our minds and understanding.
  • If the answers were within our minds, there’d be no reason to learn or do anything else but meditate, since we could just find the answers through introspection alone.

Too much awareness can sometimes make people more selfish.

Further, we sometimes must pace ourselves, since too much truth at once may overwhelm us.