What comes to your mind when using the word ‘awareness’? Maybe you think about concentration, about a heightened attention – and yes, this is all a big part of it.
But awareness is actually something quite simple. Awareness is what we need and use if we want to do something in an especially attentive or careful way. It also means doing just one thing at a time – it means being focused. Perhaps you already feel reminded of the Zen Buddhism, and that’s right where the practice of awareness has been established and perfected over hundreds of years.
Actually, awareness is something very profound and natural. You can see it when you watch animals in their usual behavior, or look at a child who’s playing, completely involved and absorbed by what it is doing.
During our lives we learn many different social rules: we learn to follow tight schedules, work to deadlines, fulfill roles and act as we’re supposed to. The more rules we learn, the more we lose our natural behavior – and very often we also lose our natural sense of being aware. Our mind is so stuffed with timetables, policies, expectations and aims, that there’s almost no more room for experiencing the moment, the here and now – and this is what awareness is all about.
4 easy ways to practice and improve your awareness:
Living the moment – forget everything that bothers you and focus completely on the very moment you’re in. You don’t have to be a master of meditation to do that. Practicing awareness is already a meditative form of experiencing your daily life. Try to be a child once more and let yourself be completely absorbed by something. Be there with all your senses and take in the full experience.
Use your senses – eyes, tongue, ears, fingers and nose provide us with receptors so that we are able to experience our lives in its diversity. You can practice awareness by picking out one of the five senses and try to focus on it for a while. The next time you’re eating something, take a minute to close your eyes and concentrate completely on the taste of your food.
Watch your thoughts – our thoughts produce many unnecessary thoughts each day, including stressful and negative ones. Practice awareness by paying attention to what you think, which thoughts come repeatedly, which ones are new, which are old and well known ones, which ones are supportive, and which ones make you feel down?
Breathing – breathing is an essential way to reduce stress. If you want to practice awareness with breathing just stop for a minute and focus on your breath and the way it’s floating in and out of your body. If you want to, you can count your breaths up to ten, and then start from one again.
How to practice awareness – before starting:
Try to find a quiet place.
Think about how long you want to practice – a few minutes are usually an appropriate time to start. If it helps, you might want to set an alarm clock so that you don’t have to watch the time and can fully concentrate on the exercise you chose.
Practice as often as you like during the day, but never try to be permanently aware of everything; it would drive you crazy.
For some people it is hard to pay attention to themselves and what is going on in their body and mind. If this is also hard for you, try to focus on something outside of yourself, e.g. take a few minutes to watch a tree, feel the bark and the leaves, or just listen to the noises around you and try to count how many different ones you can distinguish.
Last but not least – you can practice awareness in every moment of your life. Each of your everyday routines, such as brushing your teeth, making coffee, getting dressed, you can do in an attentive and careful way full of awareness.
So there is no need to think complicated; just get started here and now.