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Becoming Aware

Photo by FrankWinkler

Photo by FrankWinkler

During meditation, beginners are often taught to be aware of their thoughts. To watch them arise, follow their course, and then fall away again.

It’s a very tough practice to get into and that’s one of the reasons meditation is so hard. There shouldn’t be any judgement when you come up with these thoughts, just watching them like you’re floating above the thought.The first time I heard that, I thought it was crazy but when I tried doing it, when I tried watching my thoughts, instead of being active in them, it’s really interesting. I still think it’s a bit crazy to think about watching your thoughts in third person. I’ve thought many things were crazy until I saw proof so I don’t really think too much is that crazy any more.

What are you doing with this practice is becoming aware. You become aware of what your thoughts are doing and not participating in them but just watching them flow by like in a river. I try to meditate as often as I can (which isn’t very much) and the little I have done has shown me that you can watch your thoughts at any time during the day. The more involved you are in something, the less you can step back and watch your thoughts. It takes you out of what you are doing.

Watching your thoughts can take you out of flow. If flow is your goal then watching your thoughts can prevent that all-in engagement that you are looking for. Instead of highlighting yourself and watching your thoughts, you’ll want to be in within your thoughts 100%. Being in flow has it’s own benefits and so does meditation but they seem to be opposite in how they operate.

While it’s hard to be self-aware while you’re in flow in those thoughts, it can be useful to come back to awareness during the day. Brendan Burchard uses a trigger during the day to tip himself into self-awareness and do a mental and physical checkin.

How’s your breathing? How’s your posture? How’s your positive thinking?

That checkin requires awareness of what’s happening with your thoughts. Burchard’s use of the trigger of being in a line-up brings him out of his thoughts. Line-up, check in. Line-up, check in.

These moments of awareness are great for every kind of self-improvement metric. You could create a trigger during the day to ask what you just at and how healthy was it? Or how much have you moved in the last 30 minutes? Or are you sitting up straight with proper back position.

I’m a computer programmer during the day and it’s extremely difficult to maintain proper posture the whole time. When you’re deep in the code, the last thing you are thinking about is what your body is doing aside from your fingers. As long as you’re fingers can type as fast as they can go, then who cares what the rest of the body is doing, even if it’s bent out of shape and creating long term join and back issues. I’m becoming more aware of my posture while I work as well as while I walk or drive or play. My trigger has been other people’s posture.

One look at another person’s posture now and what used to send a list of “shoulds” for that other person through my mind, now sends a trigger to my awareness HQ about my own posture. How is mine doing? Am I perfect posture right now? Probably not. Straighten up.

You’d be a mess if you sat watching your thoughts all day long though. There needs to be a balance of being in your thoughts and watching them.

Just don’t start worrying about what happens when you become aware of becoming aware.