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What is awareness? 10 ways to practise awareness

It’s lovely to meet you here… Here is very a beautiful place to be.

In this blog post, I’m going to answer a question that comes up a lot and that is ‘What is awareness?’.

If you’re on a journey of self-discovery, chances are you’ll have seen words like awareness, consciousness, alive consciousness, conscious awareness and so on floating around as you begin diving into spiritual podcasts, books, videos and social accounts. You may have even arrived here from my FREE beginner’s guide to mediation series.

I know at the beginning of my healing journey I was slightly overwhelmed by all the new terminology I was meeting with and, to be honest, I felt a little nervous about asking questions in fear of being such a ‘newbie’. It was only when I experienced a meditation retreat at The Body Holiday back in 2018 that I found the platform and the courage to ask away.

This was when my journey truly began…

Healing journeys are so beautifully displayed and encouraged on social media these days and with them comes a wealth of new concepts and terminology. I get it though, it can all feel too much to take in at once. Too much to learn.

The advice I’d give here is to take it one step at a time and to go easy on yourself. There is no expectation to learn everything at once, in fact, healing absolutely cannot work that way. Healing is a process of slowly unwinding and peeling away all the layers of your existence.

The journey of healing is a way of life and a dedication to yourself. There’s no end goal, no mark of completion.

Healing is a lifestyle choice and you’ll only embark on it when you feel ready. When you feel called to awaken beyond the material world…

Some ‘awaken’ young, some old, and some never do. If there’s one thing I have learnt this year it is that healing cannot be forced upon someone.

The choice to heal can only come from the heart of the person that is healing and a sustainable journey can only be fuelled by the soul of the individual on it.

Healing is a personal inner journey to meet oneself and the time at which the motivation arises to do so is completely unique to the individual.

Just remember, no matter what it is that we are learning, we are all beginners at some point and, only by accepting yourself where you are fully, can you receive the help and guidance to take you to the next stage.

See my reading list here for the books that have contributed most to my spiritual journey so far.

What is awareness?

Some would say that a journey of healing begins and ends with awareness.

Awareness is a state of being whereby you are the observer of your mind, as opposed to being completely identified with it (controlled by it).

Awareness is a state of consciousness/presence, in which you are the observer that watches the incessant stream of thoughts come and go. You acknowledge the existence of thoughts but you are not tangled with them as such.

If you reading this like ‘sorry WHAT are you on about?’ chances are, you aren’t aware that you have a running commentary of thoughts? Chances are, you’ve never consciously witnessed your true self which is the you beyond the conceptual mind.

Welcome… this is the start of everything.

When we are completely identified with the voice in our head, we are under the spell of our egoic mind. Our egoic mind serves us in so many beneficial ways but when we take everything our thoughts say to be true and we aren’t able to step in with awareness / presence… we are in trouble.

Before we continue, incase this is your first introduction to awareness, try this short exercise…

2-minute awareness exercise:

Close your eyes and take 3 deep breaths. 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out. Take note of what thoughts come in. Do any thoughts come in? Are you questioning the exercise?  Thinking about what to have for dinner? What voice is showing up? What’s it saying?

Open your eyes for a moment.

Now close your eyes again and take 3 more deep breaths. This time watch those thoughts as they come towards you and imagine they each arrive on a cloud. When the thought cloud towards you, visualise blowing it away again. Keep blowing away the thoughts until they begin to slow down. What are you left with?

What you are left with is awareness. Your consciousness beyond thought.

Awareness is:

  • Freedom from thinking for a moment.
  • Stepping back from thoughts and into presence, into the moment, the absence of thoughts.
  • Becoming aware of the space between your thoughts.

When you begin to practise awareness, it may not seem fulfilling at first. Trying to find that stillness and that absence of thought may feel frustrating…

It may simply be highlighting to you how many thoughts you have and perhaps how unaware you have been all this time. This is not something to get frustrated by. Acceptance of your thoughts is a crucial part of the process. Allow them to be as they are. Every moment that you practise awareness counts.

And like everything else, the more you practise it, the more naturally it comes. This is what Eckhart Tolle calls ‘presence power’. Your ability to stay present grows the more you practise it.

What's the point of awareness?

For as long as you’re in a state of awareness, you’re out of your egoic mind. The two cannot exist at once.

In awareness, you have the power to observe the patterns of your mind, as opposed to being completely identified with them. As a result, you are blessed with choice. With practised awareness, you don’t see an end to emotions (you never will), or challenging situations arising but you do get to take control back and limit the suffering that the mind likes to pile on top.

Life becomes more joyful.

For example…

Can you think of a moment where someone said something to you and before you knew it you’d ‘lost it’ and the situation spiralled out of proportion which was only realised when you were both too exhausted to continue offending each other any longer?

In these moments where we are triggered by another’s words or actions, the ego instinctively takes over to protect us. If we don’t intervene with awareness, the egoic mind can also get carried away and do some unnecessary damage in the process. Through awareness, we can learn to see a situation or a comment for what it is, as opposed to the stories the egoic mind will try and impose on it. Through awareness we can allow for better communication, we don’t take things so personally and we don’t jump to so many conclusions.

Practising awareness isn’t to say that you are suddenly never going to get lost in your anger, your frustrations or your pain body again, but you will increasingly begin to catch yourself in those moments of the trigger before unnecessary damage is done and before that emotion completely takes over you.

The egos instinctive reaction here is called reactivity. Those moments where you don’t feel like you had a choice in the matter because your ego took the lead (and you actually didn’t have a say).

The point of awareness is the realisation that your thoughts/your ego are not you. When you feel lost like in this example, you are lost. In your ego.

How to reduce the ego? Practise awareness.

A guide to planning an epic British Columbia road trip, Canada

How do I get awareness?

There is no short cut to awareness. No pill no smoothie and no one-time meditation that will enlighten you forever.

Awareness takes practise and like any other skill, it takes some training. Awareness is a lifetime commitment to yourself and if you don’t think that you are worth it… seriously what is worth it?

I have no doubt that when you begin receiving the incredible benefits of awareness, you won’t think twice about fitting in this practice.

Sure you might forget about it for days, weeks, months at a time but that’s still part of your journey. For every moment you are aware again, you win a little more.

Practising presence brings you back into your power, the power of choice. Between the stimulus in front of you and your response to it, is space and in that space sits your choice.

Awareness allows you to observe yourself, your conditioning, your reactions and your beliefs underneath them. Awareness allows you to rewrite your story, your connections and your behaviour.

It’s time to get practising hey?

10 ways to practise awareness:

1. Set time aside to practise meditation each morning

Meditation is the practice of awareness. This can be done through many forms including (but not limited to):

  1. Body scanning meditation
  2. Sound meditation
  3. Guided voice meditation
  4. Breath awareness meditation
  5. Tai Chi movement
  6. Qigong movement

Try my 5 minute breath-focused meditation below!

2. Choose a small activity in your day and decide to be present as you do it.

Particularly if you have a busy lifestyle and cannot currently find the time for a dedicated 10 / 20 / 30 minute practise – this is perfect for you.

Choose an activity that you do every day and commit to that being your time to check in with your thoughts and your awareness. That way you don’t have to add anything to your schedule but you’re building that presence power daily.

Activities to consider:

  • Making a cup of tea
  • Brushing your teeth
  • Walking to work
  • Eating your lunch
  • Having a shower

4. Set a reminder on your phone every 1-2 hours. For 30 seconds, step out of thinking.

Set interval reminders on your phone. Set however many are manageable for you and check-in on your thoughts and awareness throughout your day. Particularly as you begin practising awareness, this habit will be life changing. You will soon realise how lost you are in thought on a daily basis!

5. Write a gratitude list when you wake up in the morning.

Tuning into your gratitude is one of the most powerful practises out there. Writing down things that you are grateful for ignites your awareness instantly and takes the focus from your mind and into your body where you feel love, compassion, appreciation and gratitude.

Doing this in the morning is extremely powerful as it sets your tone and your awareness for the rest of the day.

6. Take a break and walk in nature.

Nature is the greatest anchor into presence because it just is. Nature has no ego, its complete consciousness and so are immediately grounded by its presence. You wouldn’t look at a tree and start faulting it for the way it looks and it grows, would you?

You accept nature for exactly who it is, and it accepts you for exactly who you are. This is the essence of awareness, acceptance and stillness.

7. Do some breath work to your favourite song.

Put on your favourite song once a day and consciously count your breaths. 5 seconds in, 5 seconds out. Follow the breath as it journeys in and out of your body. Focus on the sensations in your body and it will allow you to come out of the mind, increasing that presence power.

9. Take 10 minutes to be still and write down your thoughts

When you wake up or before you go to sleep, this is a great chance to have some time alone and write down your thoughts.

Keep writing for the sake of observing them all on paper in front of you.

You’ll start noticing patterns. You’ll start noticing repeating beliefs or feelings that come up. Start becoming the investigator of your own mind and the emotions that they feed.

Talk to me, have you discovered your awareness?

Love as always and happy adventuring,

Mollie.

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I’M MOLLIE AND I STARTED THIS BLOG BACK IN 2013 WHEN I HEADED OUT ON MY FIRST BACKPACKING ADVENTURE. I’D LOVE TO SHARE MY STORY WITH YOU…

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