The practice of steadying ourselves and our awareness is so we can create a buffer of perception between the events in our lives, and our responses to them. This allows us to learn they are ever-flowing and ever-changing. This can be a huge insight to many people.
The knowledge that ‘this, too, shall pass’ is heartening but not always easy to accept or comprehend.
However, we must acknowledge that we too shift, change, grow, and evolve all of our life. This means we can completely reinvent ourselves, if necessary, and if desirable, to respond to life’s challenges adaptively.
By strengthening the pathways that stabilise and steady our brain’s attention, we can learn to simply be with what is, and to consciously reflect on the truth of the experience (the facts) before choosing to change it or to shift our responses to it.
Ways To Steady Yourself & Awareness
- Focus on your breath – flowing in, flowing out. Focus on sounds, coming into awareness, fading away. Focus on an ache in the body, now sensing it, now not sensing it.
- Train your attention and steady your awareness by mindfully attending to simple activities of daily life. When you wash the dishes, pay attention to your experience moment by moment: your hands moving through soapy water, the weight of the plates as you move them from sink to strainer. Notice when your attention wanders off into planning the next day. You’re observing the dance between your brain’s focused and unfocused modes of attention. When you notice that your attention has wandered, strengthen your brain’s capacity for focused attention by refocusing it on the experience of doing the dishes – being right here, right now, with your full focus and attention. You can train the brain in the same way by paying attention to your experience of taking a shower, combing your hair, opening or closing a car door, getting dressed etc…
- Notice the awareness that is allowing you to notice your experience. Know that you are tying your shoelaces and know that you know. (This awareness of awareness becomes a refuge when the experience you are paying attention to is something difficult or distressing. You can learn more about meta-awareness in my new book The Wise Advocate – The Inner Voice of Strategic Leadership).
- Notice any opinions or judgments that come into your mind about how well you are doing right now. That mental content becomes an object of your awareness too, and you can let it go and continue to focus your attention on your current activity.
The object of your awareness – the breath, the dishes, driving the car — is in the foreground. The awareness that knows you are doing what you are doing is in the background, but you can learn to make that awareness itself part of the foreground. This is essential when what you meet and pay attention to is difficult or distressing.
The Play of Awareness
Human beings go into and out of steady awareness all the time. It’s not “wrong” or “bad:” it’s how the human brain works. When you’re not deliberately focusing your attention on something, your mind will naturally wander into the default network mode of processing – usually on looking out for threats to keep us safe.
You can strengthen the circuits of your brain’s attention by noticing when you’re paying attention to present-moment experience and noticing when you’re not. This exercise sounds simple, but it’s a workout! Research shows that this kind of practice brings measurable results: longtime meditators have increased the volume of brain cells in the structures of the brain that are used to pay attention!
Exercise your brain and awareness capability
- Focus your awareness on your breathing – breath flowing in, breath flowing out.
- Count each inhalation-exhalation cycle as one breath. Count ten breaths. When you complete ten breaths without losing focus, start over at one. Count another ten breaths.
- When you notice your mind has wandered at breath 5 or 7, refocus your attention on your breathing and start over at one. The first time you try this, it’s hard to get past three breaths: our minds wander all the time. There’s no shame or blame, no judgment or evaluation attached to this wandering. Simply start over and continue the practice.
In this exercise, becoming an expert breath counter is not what’s important. It’s the process that counts – tracking attention and steadying awareness – that’s so invaluable in strengthening our ability to stay grounded in the face of harder and harder life challenges.
Now it’s your turn…
Tell me how you got on with these exercises. What did you notice? How are you being invited to grow? Share your feedback and comments below – I love learning from you too!
Keep the focus, practice often, and pay attention to what you’re paying attention to. It’s not the amount of time you spend training your awareness – it’s consistency of practice that counts.
It looks simple and it is. It’s just not easy, but it is well worth it. This is how you will develop greater grit and resilience potential.
Remember, it’s not what happens to you that defines you. It’s how you respond that counts.
P.S Are you ready to:
- Stop letting fear rob you of your quality of life?
- Learn how to bounce back from adversity and turn it into opportunity?
- Not let emotions rule your life?
- Learn my number 1 strategy for transforming fear into fearlessness?
YES? Then join me for my LAST public workshop for 2019 before I take my 6 month sabbatical!
WORKSHOP: Conquer your fears and build resilience for life!
Date: Saturday, 31st August 2019
Venue: Walkabout Creek – 60 Mount Nebo Rd, Enoggera Reservoir QLD 4520
In this engaging and interactive workshop with two time cancer survivor, Josie Thomson, you will discover the two key factors in creating empowerment and greater freedom of choice in life.
Reduce your stress and anxiety by learning how mindfulness and positive neuroplasticity can enable you to experience the freedom of a fearless life. Let me show you how to transform life’s adversities into stepping stones to greater resilience, fulfilment, wellbeing and peace.
You’ll also learn:
- Why fear is crucial to survival
- The importance of our three basic fundamental needs: safety, satisfaction and connection
- How to reduce the causes of bodily dis-ease and mental anxiety
- The power of life’s greatest teachers: acceptance, forgiveness, self compassion and gratitude
- How to remain present, calm and centred – no matter what
- How to use mindful awareness to reduce stress, anxiety and overwhelm
Fear feeds on self-doubt, self judgement and insecurity. If you are ready to transform your relationship with fear to keep it from robbing you of your quality of life, TAKE ACTION NOW!
Limited seats available – this event will sell out.