Category Archives: practice

Three ways to increase your awareness instantly

increase awareness making tea
sacred mount Kailash

Awareness may be the mountain, but there are many paths to it.

Here are three ways to increase present-moment awareness that I’ve drawn from books I’ve read this year.

All these ways are interconnected and they all lead in the same direction – towards a more joyful, fulfilling experience of life.

I hope you find at least one of them helpful.

The First Way

The First Way is what Eckhart Tolle calls “acceptance”.

It sounds easy.

You simply accept everything that is going on around you right now – and accept it completely. Another way of saying this is to stop resisting the present moment. Or surrender to it.

As you do that, you can feel the tension in your mind diminish. You can then start to notice tensions in your body, which you can release, too. The more relaxed you are, the more subtle the tension you can find, release, and the more relaxed you can be.

Acceptance, non-resistance and surrender sound passive, but the effect is quite the opposite. You suddenly experience an opening up of the senses. An increased awareness of life going on around you in all its forms.

This is a particularly useful technique for dealing with absolutely anything.

The Second Way

Present-moment awareness on the tube

The Second Way to increase awareness makes every situation friendly. (Photo by Tolga Akmen)

I love the Second Way, which is: Make friends with the present moment.

In the West, we have been conditioned to believe that life will be better in the future. Unfortunately, this means we overlook the present moment, which is the only time there ever is. Even more unfortunately, we treat the present moment as an obstacle, getting between us and the happy life we imagine we are destined for.

This is a particularly unhelpful trick of the mind.

Fortunately, the trick is so obvious you can easily spot it and stop it. Next time you catch yourself thinking the present moment is somehow boring, uncomfortable, in your way, or actively going against you – notice the thought.

As soon as you notice it, the thought becomes self conscious. It shrinks. And in the space between where the thought was (dominating your attention) and where it is now (diminishing rapidly), you can change the way you experience the world. Here is where you can choose to see the present moment as your friend and not your enemy.

Here is your opportunity to experience your life – in actual time.

Imagine how enjoyable life would be if you saw every moment as being friendly (even when it appears not to be). Sounds impossible? You can experience it for yourself with a very simple exercise like this one with the hands.

Upgrading the Second Way

Making friends with the present moment is an excellent start, and the credit, again, goes to Tolle. I propose an extension to the idea – or an upgrade: Fall in love with the present moment.

Imagine loving your experience of life, in the fullest possible sense – all the time. What a wonderful way to be.

The Third Way

increase awareness making tea

The best way to make a cup of tea – with awareness.

The Third Way is new to me, and I also love it. It’s what Eckhart calls “Primary Purpose”.

It’s reassuringly simple: Our Primary Purpose is to do whatever we are doing, right now. For me, now, my Primary Purpose is to write this blog post clearly, to try and communicate these ideas in a way you will find helpful. For you, now, your Primary Purpose is to read these words.

That’s it.

There is nothing more to life than what is going on in and around you right now. (Although the more awareness you have, the fuller that experience can be – ad infinitum.)

Primary Purpose is a brilliant way to bring enjoyment to the most mundane tasks. When washing dishes, for example, the Primary Purpose is: washing dishes. Feel the temperature of the water. Notice the soap. Feel the item becoming clean. If you are making a cup of tea, your Primary Purpose is not “make the tea”. It is: walk to the kettle, lift it to check for water, put it on (etc.). One thing at a time. Fully.

This idea came from a long Tolle video I watched the other night and I’ve been practising since (whenever I remember). Here is a shorter video where he covers some of the same points I’ve made here.

Feel free to ask questions.

 

Can you feel your hands?

feel you hands meditation exercise

 

You can increase your awareness and become more present right now, with this wonderfully simple exercise from Eckhart Tolle.

feel your hands meditation exercise

The feel-your-hands exercise is my discovery of the year.

Can you feel your hands? (present-moment exercise)

Hold your hands away from your body, so they do not touch anything.

Close your eyes.

See if you can feel your hands, without looking at them or moving them.

(Once you can sense the energy in your hands strongly, you can move your attention to the feet and then the whole of what Tolle calls the “inner body”. Here he is talking about the exercise, with Oprah playing Devil’s Advocate. The video ends abruptly, but if you like what you hear, you can plunder his library of videos on YouTube – when you get a moment.)

 

Free climber meditation

free climber meditation

Here’s an idea I had for a meditation practice you can try anywhere. If you have anything similar, please leave a comment. You never know what other people will find useful…

free climber meditation

Enjoy the free climber meditation in the safety of your own home and city. Then all you risk is falling unconscious (again).

A bit of background

Many years ago, in a youth hostel in San Diego, I remember talking to someone about free climbing. He told me that free climbers are very intense people. Very grounded. Very much in tune with their surroundings. Which is hardly surprising, as a loss of concentration would almost certainly be fatal.

Here’s an article I found yesterday about free climber Dean Potter that talks about this in more detail.

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a climber from Chamonix about the same thing. He reminded me that free climbers focus completely on what is right in front of them, right now. And when they move, they move with their whole body, with great precision and efficiency. “Like a spider,” he said. (Which might be helpful.)

This gave me an idea for a meditation I’ve been enjoying since.

Now, the meditation

When you get a moment, as you go about your day, spend some time moving as if free climbing. As you move (for example, to reach for the pepper when cooking, or to walk across the room), feel your whole body working together to allow that movement. When you get distracted by your thoughts of the past or future – just come back to the present moment and be alert to everything going on around you right now. When you put down your coffee cup, for example, put it down deliberately. Exactly there.

Let me know how you get on. I found my walking became much more sure-footed, with a slightly longer stride.