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 of slowing down our thoughts:
- Sit somewhere comfortable.
- Let your perceptions come naturally.
- Feel your present physical state.
- Become aware of the world around you.
- Learn to observe thoughts that arise before they occur.
- Make a habit of meditation everywhere.
Once you’re familiar with meditation, try advanced reflection by focusing on various perspectives and thoughts.
However, meditation is only good for finding problems, and won’t necessarily give any solutions.
Why bother with awareness?
The basis of all understanding starts with knowing yourself.
- Awareness is the first start 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 try to fix something that might not be our problem.
- 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.
- The false sense of crisis means we neglect our needs more often.
- 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.
- Every decision and uncertainty is a type of inner conflict.
- These conflicts start within ourselves and branch out to others.
- We constantly hear new things that interfere with our thoughts.
Gaining self-awareness can be lonely.
- Nobody else sees or knows our thoughts, no matter how well we communicate them.
- If there’s a higher power, it often evades our direct perception.
Meditation is simply tracking the current state of your mind:
- It’s a moment-by-moment focused perspective, and not technically spiritual or transcendental.
- To grab hold of it, we must slow down our thoughts and clear out obstructions in our mind.
Meditation is low-effort and easy enough to do almost anywhere:
Meditation is critical for living well:
- Whatever we focus on, even when we’re not aware of it, shifts our perspective around.
- Meditation allows us to is distinguish “important” from “unimportant” things.
- The only thing that exists around us is the “present”, and meditation helps us separate it from our memories and imagination.
- The events which happen to us don’t matter near as much as how we interpret them.
- All wisdom, understanding, virtue, self-discipline, prolonged success, critical thinking, analysis, and satisfaction require at least some meditation.
Meditation is necessary to find inner problems:
- Simply slowing down gives us more control over our minds.
- As little as 15 minutes of meditation and/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 often have addictions or triggers controlling us without our knowledge.
Meditation enhances the power of silence:
- Silence allows us to unwind and decompress 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 3 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 feet, flat on the floor from knee to foot, parallel with each other
- Half lotus – both knees touch the floor, one leg and calf are flat along the calf of the other leg
- Full lotus – both knees touch the floor, and both feet are flush against the opposite thighs
- Rest your hands on top of each other with the palms turned upward and each wrist pressed against the thigh.
- If you use a chair, don’t lean against the back of the chair and keep the feet uncrossed and flat on the floor.
- If you need, 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: they just “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 onto feelings because they feel 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 breathing and its many small elements until you’ve fully recognized and accepted it.
- Slow your breathing to increase oxygenation and relaxation.
- Inhale for 4 seconds.
- Hold your lungs full for 4 seconds.
- Exhale for 4 seconds.
- 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 1 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, 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 a first feeling.
- Observe your body’s reactions to those secondary feelings.
- Focus on other times you’ve felt different than 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 awareness to the world around you:
- Visualize something familiar you can see around you, like a household object.
- Observe how the mind created that visualization, but also 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 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 that 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 that experience even exists.
E. Observe thoughts that arise before they occur:
- We often treat our thoughts like we’re 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 much uncertainty various things can be to us.
- Accept that your emotions and thoughts are not necessarily you.
- Focus in on specific thoughts, like a familiar friend’s face or the particular smell of a plant.
- Accept that the constant flow of ideas is outside your identity and self, if you choose it to be.
F. Make a habit of prolonged awareness:
- Only improve yourself from that meditative state.
- When you feel anxious or uneasy, force yourself to stop and slow down.
- Learn to disconnect thoughts from sequential thoughts and actions that flow from it.
Over time meditation becomes second-nature and extends to everything else.
- The time sitting alone was simply practice for the rest of your life.
Reflect on the present:
- Focus on “now”, dropping out everything about “then” or “could” and “will”.
- 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.
Reflect on the past:
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 matched or deviated from reality.
Reflect on people around you:
- Learn how to expand your understanding to how other people behave and think.
- Accept everything you can’t change regarding other people, including conflicts with others and in your relationship.
- Examine the social context for what others are saying and doing, including the fact that you’re always present for them.
- Take the time to analyze and consider typically agreed-upon things more thoroughly.
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 perspectives about reality at once:
- Negative views of the past
- Positive views of the past
- Negative focus on the present (fatalistic)
- Positive focus on the present (hedonistic)
- Depressing views of the future
- Transcendental views of the future
- Observe the best perspective to adopt for the given situation.
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 the experience you’re feeling 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.
- You’re venting out the experience in an articulate way.
- 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, and we’ll only find the solutions beyond our own minds.
Too much awareness can sometimes make people more selfish, and should only serve to benefit other people.
- Depending on your social status and culture, knowing certain facts can inhibit your success or prevent you from being a decent human being.
Further, we sometimes must pace ourselves, since too much truth at once may overwhelm us.