Going Inward: Self-Awareness Achieved Through Meditation
With all of today’s roadblocks to self-awareness, stress included, 36% of people actually being self-aware seems like a HIGH percentage! Acknowledging this achievement, the new question becomes, “How can we become more self-aware?”
It takes practice and patience to be authentically self-aware. An important technique is to “catch yourself” when you’re not in the present, and to “pull yourself back” to the moment. Deepak Chopra illustrates this eloquently:
“The best way to be in the present moment is to be aware that you’re not in the moment. As soon as you’re aware that you’re not in the moment, you’re in the moment.”
If you’re truly in the present as you’re reading this, you may already suspect where I’m going. My favorite way to be more self-aware and present is through meditation! In fact, self-awareness is the built-in goal of meditation. It’s turning your attention inward and connecting with your senses. In other words, it’s the purest form of being in the present.
Getting Comfortable With Meditation
It’s funny and tragic at the same time when people say, “I don’t have time to meditate”. Meditation can be done anytime, anywhere. Studies have shown that a meditation practice of just 8 minutes per day is an effective stress reliever. And remember: stress is one of those common roadblocks to self-awareness.
As you develop your meditation protocol, you’ll begin to get in-touch with your body when it’s anxious or tense. This noticing of your emotions is the first step toward self-regulation. Vincent van Gogh aptly pointed this out when he said, “Let’s not forget that the little emotions are the great captains of our lives and we obey them without realizing it.”
The big pushback I get when I suggest meditation to acquaintances, colleagues and loved ones is, “I don’t know how to.” Fair enough. Even people who’ve been meditating for years question if they’re doing it correctly. When you pause and take time to connect with your breath, and just breathe, you’re doing it right.
Here are three streams of quick and discreet meditation that can be done to bring yourself to self-awareness. They’re designed to ground you and connect you with your body and emotions. I use them as part of my daily routine, having been instructed by the true experts. May they be a personal inspiration to you, and an open door that leads to refined EQ.
The Breath Connect
Set your timer for 1 minute. Take in a deep, slow breath. Feel the air being lifted into your nostrils. Is the air cold? Does it tickle? Feel the air filling your lungs. Now exhale. Feel your chest deflate, notice how the release is effortless. Once your breath is gone, focus on the next slow, deep in-breath. Do this about 9 more times. As the timer goes off ask yourself how that feels. When I do this with my clients, they’re surprised that one minute of focused breathing can be so relaxing, delightful, and “nice”. Voila. You’re meditating!
The Body Scan
Move yourself into relaxation by beginning with a ‘check-in’. Follow this quick meditation led by Tara Brach to learn how to do a body scan. Repeat it for a few days in a row (that’s FIVE minutes a day), and you’ll begin to sense the energy in your body. Now set a timer and as you soften your brow, connect with your head. How does it feel? Any pain? How about your neck? As you’re scanning down your body, notice where and how you hold your tension. Use Tara Brach’s “ice to water, water to gas” methodology to mentally work out the tensions that often result in physical knots. As you become more in-touch with where you hold your tension, you will be able to quickly ‘adjust’, and work out those kinks.
You can do these quick body scans during the course of your day. Getting a sense of the physical manifestations of when you feel uncomfortable—insecure, defensive, impatient, angry, defeated—will allow you to self-regulate. My next article will look at that further. But first, there’s another type of meditation I LOVE to indulge in.
Breathing and simply listening to the world around you helps you slow down and connect to the present. It’s a powerful way to quiet your thinking mind and connect with the natural openness of awareness. Even in a noisy environment, you can listen to the space between the noise (not just figuratively) and center yourself. If you have the good fortune of being someplace that is quiet, extend your listening to the greatest corners of your consciousness.
Building any new intentional practice or protocol takes time and patience. But developing a meditation practice can literally be accomplished in 5 minutes a day. Stretch it to 10 minutes daily, and you’ll enjoy the benefits of a greater attention span and a healthier body and mind.
The value-add of meditation is that it’s also a big first step towards self-regulation, the second principle of Emotional Intelligence. An article coming soon will explore just that!